STONE HARBOR - The borough has proposed raising the fee for residential water use, citing the need to pay back infrastructure bonds as well as curb water use by some homeowners.

According to the proposed ordinance, minimum charges will increase $25 per quarter. For example, the minimum quarterly charge for a water meter service size of between 5/8 and 3/4 inches will be raised from $45 to $70, covering a three-month period.

It would be the first time in three years the water rates have been changed, Business Administrator Kenneth Hawk said.

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Hawk said the money is needed to help pay for projects aimed at keeping the water clean and flowing throughout the borough.

"The borough has been doing a number of infrastructure improvements for water and sewer lines," Hawk said. "Now, we need a way to pay (the state) back."

Hawk said the borough received about $5 million in state bonds through the New Jersey Environmental Infrastructure Trust. The borough must begin paying back the low-interest bonds in 2011.

Hawk said the borough estimates it will raise about $300,000 annually through the rate changes. The bonds must be paid back over a 20-year period.

The borough also is raising rates for homes that use exclusion meters, which monitor water use at homes where the water does not flow into sewage drains in the borough and is therefore excluded from rates from the county's municipal utilities authority.

The rates are aimed at curbing water use.

"What we found was that 15 percent of the exclusion meters were using 50 percent of the water (among homes with exclusion meters)," Hawk said.

For homes with exclusion meters, the rate would be raised from $2.25 per 1,000 gallons to $3 per 1,000 gallons up to 50,000 gallons per quarter. The proposed rate increase for use between 50,000 gallons and 80,000 gallons per quarter would be raised from $3.50 to $4.25 per 1,000 gallons used.

However, the rate would be higher for people who use the most water. For any water used beyond 80,000 gallons in a quarter, a resident would pay $8.50 per 1,000 gallons used, up from the current rate of $5 per 1,000 gallons.

Hawk said the borough had 127 residents use more than 80,000 gallons in July, August and September 2009. The numbers for the same quarter this year were not available.

Borough Council will further discuss and decide whether to adopt the ordinance at 4:30 p.m. Oct. 5. The council voted unanimously in favor of introducing the ordinance at last Tuesday's meeting, Hawk said.

Contact Ben Leach:

609-463-6712

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