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Residents of two county towns may pay more for water

by Jim Fisher

STAFF WRITER

Residents in Lumberport and West Milford soon may be paying more for their water after councils in both municipalities voted this week to raise water rates.

West Milford council members also approved a measure to increase the town's municipal garbage collection by $2 per month. The water rates will go up 10 percent beginning with January's bills, pending approval by the state Public Service Commission, said Mayor Roy Smith.

In Lumberport, the proposed increase of 34.7 percent will go into effect Dec. 21, also pending PSC approval, said Town Clerk Norma Edwards.

West Milford's increases are necessary because of rising costs, Smith said.

"We haven't had an increase in quite a spell and prices are going up. We're more or less just keeping up with the people who are raising prices," Smith said. "Also, with the price of labor today, you've got to keep up with a decent wage for people."

West Milford Council passed both ordinances Tuesday after a public hearing at a special meeting. Smith said only about seven residents showed up for the hearing. Smith said a few people voiced concerns about the increase, but he explained that it was necessary to "keep our head above water."

Lumberport's 34.7 percent increase comes on the heels of a 24 percent increase in May 1999, Edwards said. The latest increase was passed at Monday's regular council meeting, she said. No residents showed up for that city's public hearing, she said.

The 1999 increase was necessary because the town had not raised rates since the early 1980s, she said. Monday's increase will help pay for a $2.95 million water project.

Lumberport received a $1.25 million Small Cities Block Grant, a $700,000 grant through the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Rural Development and a $1 million loan through the federal Rural Utility Service, Edwards said.

The project will provide for upgrades to the town's water treatment plant, two new 150,000-gallon tanks and water line replacements, she said.

"The tanks are old ... and in very bad shape," she said. The plant dates to the 1920s, although there were some upgrades in the early 1990s, she said.

"The majority of people, once they know why we need the increase, they're OK with it," she said.

Staff writer Jim Fisher can be reached at 626-1446 or by e-mail at jfisher@exponent-telegram.com

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