Newspaper article The Record (Bergen County, NJ)

Hearing Set on United Water Rate Hike

Newspaper article The Record (Bergen County, NJ)

Hearing Set on United Water Rate Hike

Article excerpt

A proposed 18 percent increase in rates for United Water New Jersey customers -- aimed at helping to pay for water system upgrades, raises for employees and a 10.9 percent profit for the company -- is set to go before the public in a hearing Wednesday in Hackensack.

The forum, at 5:30 p.m. in the Bergen County freeholder meeting room, will give customers a chance to comment on United Water's application to state regulators for an increase that would raise the average residential bill by $100 a year, from $557 to $657.

The company's application before the state Board of Public Utilities seeks $38.7 million in rate increases, partly to recoup money spent on projects that include a new water storage tank and filtration equipment, upgrades to a computerized command center and other improvements to mains, meters, pumps and pipes. The work is part of long-term effort by the company to modernize a rickety water system that dates to the 1800s and is beset by aging pipes that leak up to a quarter of the water that flows through them.

The rate hike also would help fund raises of 2.5 per-cent to 2.75 percent for employees and a profit for the company's investors.

If an increase is approved, it would mark the second awarded to the company in three years, after a 7.7 percent rate increase in 2010. The company serves about 200,000 customers in an area that includes most of Bergen County, plus northern Hudson County and pieces of Hunterdon, Morris and Sussex counties.

"Our responsibility is to make sure our customers always have a good, safe supply of water," said James Glozzy, the company's vice president and general manager. "That requires a major investment."

While the proposal has drawn little opposition from business or consumer groups, the 10.9 percent rate of return is generating objections from a state office that advocates for utility customers.

Regulatory hearings are designed to give utilities the money they need to earn to maintain their systems and earn a reasonable profit without putting too much of a burden on customers. …

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