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Pricier Water Project Up For Hearing, Vote

About 70 Towaco homeowners could pay thousands toward a million-dollar water project.

The Montville Township Committee is scheduled to hold a public hearing and vote Tuesday night on what Mayor Tim Braden has said "is one of the most complex issues this committee has ever faced."

It's a law that would have 71 Towaco homeowners and the town share in the cost of an approximately $1 million project designed to give those homeowners the opportunity to connect to the town's water system instead of an aging private system.

Some homeowners could end up paying about $9,000 each to help pay for the project and connect to the system, though some residents might be assessed different amounts—they won't know until the project is complete—and some residents might not opt to connect to the system, though the project could be seen as increasing the value of their homes regardless.

A previous version of the ordinance, approved Nov. 23, 2010, had two main differences in that it appropriated less money and did not spell out which homes would be affected by the plan.

The Township Committee meeting is scheduled for 8 p.m. in the .

Most of the homeowners involved in the plan get their water from an aging water company, Plausha Park, which most of the affected homeowners co-own. They realized the system needed potentially costly repairs and that connecting to the town's system and decommissioning their system might make the most long-term sense.

Some of the issues that have come up:

  • Even though some homeowners might technically be Plausha Park members, they have had wells installed and don't want to be billed for a project they're not going to use.
  • The Plausha Park company made an agreement with the town to go ahead with the project, which its members approved. But the ordinance now lists 10 homes that apparently weren't involved in that agreement.
  • Some Plausha Park members who stand to benefit from the new line cite past township projects to argue they shouldn't have to pay more than the approximately $3,600 connection fee.
  • And homeowners won't actually know what their bill will be until after the project is complete.

The 2010 ordinance appropriated $900,000 for the project. The proposed ordinance appropriates $1,050,000 because bids for the project came in over the initial estimates. The difference would come from Water and Sewer Department surplus.

And it lists 71 properties by block and lot, while the previous version of the ordinance only referred to the Plausha Park neighborhood.

The Plausha Park company, which has about 60 members, agreed to the plan after its members voted. But the new version brings into the equation about 10 more homes that could stand to benefit from the line.

All affected homeowners have been notified of the new plan, according to township officials.

George Sinner, a Barney Road resident, said most residents understand the project is necessary, that it is expensive and that they will have to pay for a portion of it.

But Plausha Park member Tracy Schuly said the project is comparable to other projects that only required residents to pay the connection fee. From the beginning, some residents have felt the costs are not fair, she said.

Dave F February 16, 2012 at 05:49 PM
Dan - He also referred to a project that was requested by a group of Lake Valhalla residents (VCA? Lake Valhalla Club association?), which was the precedent used to justify the decision in 2010 to split the cost 2/3 1/3 with PPWC. Can you provide some background on that to clear the air? I'm just looking for the truth, and I am hearing two versions of history.
Dan Grant February 16, 2012 at 06:54 PM
Honestly I don't recall that situation, I don't know if the Club picked up the cost or the residence or both. The club is a commercial organization so that may have made a difference. I do know that we ran sewers through the Lake area and never charged anything to people but hook up fees. I remember complaints about connection fees. I would use that as a precedent for this situation. I would use the othe 99 percent of the projects as my guide to what is fair.
Dave F February 16, 2012 at 09:39 PM
Ok, but that particular project was used to justify splitting the cost with the PPWC back in 2010. If there were NO PROJECTS IN THE LAST 10 YEARS that were funded by the residents, then the entire argument for splitting the cost for the Plausha Park project with the PPWC is INVALID and built on a foundation of lies !
Tracy S February 17, 2012 at 12:21 AM
Dan, the the Pomona, Woodhill and Hillcrest projects are repeatedly brought up, but I can't get anyone to give me details about the projects. Do you know if the town funded the water projects to replace these private water systems and what the homeowners' financial obligations were?
Dan Grant February 17, 2012 at 12:56 PM
Tracy, Pomona, Woodhill, Hillcrest was brought to the Township Committee early in our process of expansion of both systems by the residents. Ed Ernstrom who I believe lives on Woodhill was a spokesman for the group. The MUA opposed the project at the time and the Township Committee decided to do it anyway and included it in the plans that were part of overall expansion. They only paid for the connection fee and of course the line from the street to their homes. Those homes were all homes with wells. What you have in your area is the possible failure of a water system for 60 homes. That has been the same driving force for the expansion of both water and sewer since we began that expansion in the early 90's and was supported by the whole Township Committee at the time.

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