By Steve Plunkett
Manalapan town commissioners raised water and sewer rates, but not before hearing from a handful of unhappy customers.
Josh Nichols, who shares a Hypoluxo townhome with his wife, complained that they were being charged too much for having a 1-inch water meter and not enough for the water they actually use.
His monthly base rate of $101 will go to $106 this month and $129 by 2014.
“If I leave my faucets on all day for an entire month, I may pay another 15, 20 dollars on my water charge. But it doesn’t change the base charge, and that’s just going to keep going up,’’ he said.
Town Manager Linda Stumpf said the typical customer with a 1-inch meter uses 100,000 gallons of water a month, not the 10,000 Nichols said he uses. She suggested he swap out his meter for a smaller one.
James Martin, also from Hypoluxo, said he had changed his meter years ago but sympathized with Nichols.
“The gentleman is exactly right — it’s really out of whack,’’ Martin said. ‘’If you put a 4-inch meter in my house, I’m still going to use the same amount of water, but you’re going to charge me a lot more money.’’
Martin said Lantana charges $965 a year less for a 1-inch meter and has offered to run a water line to Hypoluxo.
“If it could be done, with the prices they’re talking compared with the prices you’re talking, I wouldn’t put it past that our town might just do something like that,’’ he said. “Just think, if you lose Hypoluxo as a customer, where do you stand?’’
Indeed, commissioners worried at previous meetings that Hypoluxo, which pays a 20 percent surcharge, might be wooed away by another provider. More than two-thirds of their customer base is in Hypoluxo.
Commissioners also decided water users should no longer subsidize the sewer system, which serves houses behind Town Hall, La Coquille Club, The Ritz-Carlton resort and Plaza Del Mar.
Michael King, general manager of The Ritz-Carlton, asked if the increase could be phased in.
“Over the years, your rates have been kept low, and it’s time now that we have to charge you what it costs us,’’ Mayor Kelly Gottlieb said.
Stumpf also told Manalapan resident Suzi Goldsmith that a full-time worker had been replaced by two part-timers to minimize overtime and that competitive bids are always sought to keep costs low.
“We have a high overhead and a low consumer base,’’ Commissioner Bill Bernstein said. “We’ve tried everything we could to ameliorate it and we’ll continue to do so in