October 30th Meeting Update
Here is a quick summary from our meeting last night.
We passed an ordinance setting the salary for the Acting Director of Community Services between $97,000 and $98,940. We introduced ordinances on lead based paint hazard inspection requirements for rental dwellings and a restructuring of the Department of Community Services. Both ordinances will have a public hearing and vote at our next meeting. As always you can send a comment to the Council prior to the meeting by going here: https://www.veronanj.org/council.
We passed ordinances to select a contractor for the Balston/Whitney/Windermere project, which will mostly start in the spring, in the amount of $300K. We passed a resolution certifying November as Safe Homes Month, and initiative of VMAC, and appointed a new member to the commission. We entered into a temporary service agreement with Roseland to provide us with some technical services for a short term basis while one of our employees is on a leave of absence. We also canceled $365K in bonds, most of which were under the water and sewer utility. We contracted with a vendor Witmer Public Safety Group for fire department testing of apparatus and equipment.
Under new business, we discussed our water rates. As residents may recall, we had to increase our water rates dramatically in early 2022 due to rising costs, partially due to the PFAS contamination and the Administration's decision to move to 100% purchased water from Passaic Valley Water Commission. Our water rate increased to $5.92 per 1,000 gallons consumed, but on top of that a $1.00 "temporary" surcharge was added to rates with a time limit attached of 1/1/2022 - 12/31/2023, to pay for the extra costs of buying water from Passaic Valley.
At the time we had to make these significant rate increases, Councilwoman Holland objected, saying that Verona needed to conduct a proper rate study in order to properly set rates and manage these utilities. While I voted for the measure, I stated that I would not vote for another rate increase again without first conducting a rate study.
Fast forward to today, and we are currently conducting a proper rate study on the water and sewer utility, but it is not yet completed. In addition, the PFAS remediation project has been making steady progress, but is not yet done, so we need to keep buying our water from Passaic Valley. So the "temporary" surcharge needs to be extended.
Last night I advocated to drop the pretense of this semantics gimmick and just pass a new basic water rate of $6.92. After passing $9 million in bonds to actually clean up our water supply, it seems silly that we are projecting to the public that somehow water rates will go down in the future by continuing to promote a rate as "temporary". I was overruled on my suggestion by the Council Majority, so I expect what will be introduced will be an ordnance to remove the dates of the "temporary" water surcharge so that it does not expire at the end of the year.
If you have any questions on anything we discussed, you can direct them to the entire Council here: https://www.veronanj.org/councilcontactform.