New technology at the Parsippany-Troy Hills Wastewater Treatment Plant on New Road has affected cost figures for what Montville Township owes to use the facility, causing officials there to second-guess whether the lower sewer rates promised to ratepayers beginning in January can be put into effect.
The 16 million-gallon-per-day plant, which underwent renovations this year, serves Parsippany, Montville, East Hanover, Mountain Lakes and a portion of Denville. Those municipalities share the cost of sewer service, paying a percentage of the total cost to service the sewage that goes through the plant based on what each town uses.
As part of the plant renovations, temporary meters with more advanced technology have been installed and showed one of the municipalities, Parsippany, brought less sewage through the plant than originally anticipated by the older meters. As a result, the cost burden will be shifted to the other communities, as each town's percentage of use is higher than what was anticipated when municipal budgets were developed.
Mayor James Barberio has said Parsippany will help affected municipalities deal with the issue, according to Montville's Township Administrator Victor Canning.
"Mayor Barberio has been very accommodating. He understands the dilemma, he has never ever suggested that if this turns out to be a financial issue, he would turn a blind eye on it," Canning said.
Montville Commiteeman Scott Gallopo summarized the issue and how it will impact his municipality at Tuesday's Montville Township Commitee meeting.
"[Parsippany's] expenses, as a result of their plan upgrades, have dropped significantly. Our percentge of the volume has gone up," he said.
Now Montville Township's portion of the cost could go up significantly, Gallopo said. But he said it was not something committee members could have known about ahead of time.
"You can't predict a change in the measure from a new flow meter," he said. "Even the treatment plant never saw that coming."
In June, Montville officials voted to give ratepayers a sewer fee "holiday" through the end of this year to return about $4 million in surplus money that was generated over the past several years. That same month, the township's Long Term Financial Planning Committee also recommended the adoption of , which was approved by Montville's township committee.
Canning told the township committee Tuesday the lower rates may not be enough for Montville to pay the treatment plant what is needed now that the township's percentage of the cost burden has increased. The difference, which Canning said would now have to be budgeted for, is between $350,000 and $400,000.
"This isn't anything the township committee, the administration, or the [LTFPC] is at fault for," Canning said. "We didn't know it was out there, we didn't know it was coming until we were told and then, unfortunately, it was too late."
"We probably weren't paying our fair share in the past and now we will in the future," said Montville Mayor Tim Braden. "We were on a 'holiday' for quite a while."