SEA BRIGHT MIFFED BY SEWER RATE HIKE

read-murphyCouncilman Read Murphy announced to the council Tuesday night that the borough’s sewer rate is increasing by 23 percent. (Photo by Dustin Racioppi)

By DUSTIN RACIOPPI

The Sea Bright Borough Council was anticipating a four- or five-percent increase in this year’s sewer bill. Turns out they should’ve multiplied that estimate by four or five.

Councilman Read Murphy reported at Tuesday night’s meeting that the borough had just received a letter from The Two Rivers Water Reclamation Authority stating that the municipal sewer bill would increase by 23 percent for the year.

“It’s unconscionable, but it’s also the most inexplicable,” Murphy said.”That’s a heck of an increase.”

Normally the bill runs about $500,000, Murphy said; the increase would push it close to $600,000. Given that unexpected spike, the council wants to know how and why the borough is getting whacked.

Councilwoman Dina Long agreed with Murphy that the council should send a “strong” letter to the authority objecting to the increase.

“We need a detailed breakdown to justify that 23 percent,” Long said.

That might just happen. Michael Gianforte, the authority’s executive director, tells redbankgreen he or one of his staff would be willing to meet or discuss the bill with Sea Bright.

He says that even though the borough has been successful in reducing its water flow in recent years — by installing pumps and overhauling broken or deteriorating sections of the sewer system — its output increased by 16 percent last year.

In addition, as a customer, rather than a a member, of the authority, Sea Bright is charged differently from member towns. Customer towns are billed based on a formula agreed upon when they enter into contracts with the authority, Gianforte said. The average bill is figured out based on the town’s flow and the authority’s expenses. Also, Gianforte said Sea Bright’s bill this year was impacted by bonds that were redeemed last year, which will also mean its future bills should go down.

But, he said, “the flow is the biggest impact.”

That’s where it could spell trouble for Sea Bright. Council President William Keeler said at Tuesday’s meeting that because much of the sewer system runs below Route 36, heavy trucks traveling the highway could be causing cracks or leaking in pipes. Still, Murphy isn’t yet sold that Sea Bright’s system is driving such a large increase.

“There’s no real good explanation for a 23 percent increase,” he said, suggesting that the borough auditor look into it further. “We want an explanation.”