MIDDLE TOWNSHIP — No one from the public turned out to comment at the July 1 public hearing on an ordinance that will mandate about 1,000 homeowners in and around the Del Haven section of the township connect to Lower Township’s water system.
Several residents of the affected area commented when the ordinance was introduced June 17, but there were no comments from the public nor discussion on Township Committee before the final vote.
Homes in the area should be able to turn on the taps for the new municipal water by the spring of 2021. Township officials say the deal was in the works for about a year, and for longer than that, the township has sought a solution to the area’s water woes. Salt water has been infiltrating the shallow residential wells in Del Haven, areas of Green Creek and other nearby homes for years.
Mayor Tim Donohue said at the Monday meeting that even those with new wells or whose wells have not had problems will face the issue soon.
“It’s sort of the final component of the puzzle of the Del Haven water project,” Donohue said at the meeting. “This is a mandatory hook-up ordinance, which I know some people aren’t happy about, but if there’s a thousand new customers we’re adding, I’ve had about five or six people call to complain that they were being forced to hook up.”
At a previous meeting, Township Committee approved the contract with the Lower Township Municipal Utilities Authority to provide water to Middle township customers.
For most homeowners within the project area, the water rate would be about $54 per quarter, according to information presented at previous meetings, with an additional charge of $99.41 per quarter to cover the cost of the water main installation. That project is expected to cost a total of about $10 million, including extending the water mains from the Villas section of Lower Township to the project area.
Homeowners will also face a one-time connection fee of $1,600 to tie into the system, which can be incorporated into the water bill interest-free, for an additional $80 per quarter until that total is paid off after five years.
Township officials say this is the most affordable option for homeowners that will not increase township debt or cost taxpayers in other areas. The township does not have its own water utility or authority, with other areas relying on N.J. American Water Co. or private wells.
In all, the ordinance will affect 983 properties.
Donohue said the project could not have been completed without mandating owners connect to the new system.
“In my experience and from people I’ve talked to, these projects just simply aren’t done without the mandatory hook-up requirements,” he said.
Some residents may have just completed work on a new well, he said, describing it as bad timing.
“We regret that, but it’s nothing we can change,” Donohue said.
According to Mike Chapman, the executive director of the Lower Township MUA, the total cost of the project will be about $10 million. That includes extending the water mains from Villas to the project area and tying into the Wildwood water utility to ensure enough water supply.