By Dan Moffett
Manalapan Vice Mayor Peter Isaac thinks the town should move quickly to try to persuade Hypoluxo water customers to sign a new long-term contract, and his fellow commissioners agree with him.
So the plan is to get Manalapan’s best offer on the table by the end of the year.
The 550 Hypoluxo customers are being wooed by Boynton Beach Utilities — a much larger system than Manalapan that is capable of delivering savings that could be as much as 50 percent per household.
Boynton officials say about 90 percent of Hypoluxo residents would benefit from the city utility’s tiered fee structure that links charges to the amount of water actually used.
Isaac believes losing Hypoluxo would undermine the financial viability of Manalapan’s system, which has only about 250 of its customers in the town.
“If we can keep Hypoluxo, then there’s no question we can keep our water plant. It’s a no-brainer,” Isaac said. “Hypoluxo has a very attractive offer from Boynton. We have one shot at trying to keep Hypoluxo. It’s what in negotiation terms is called a fading opportunity.”
While Manalapan may not be able to compete with Boynton in price after 2020, when the current Hypoluxo contract expires, the town could offer to roll back rates for the next three years as part of a long-term deal that makes the total cost competitive.
One idea is offering Hypoluxo customers an immediate 20 percent rate cut in exchange for locking them in to a 30-year contract.
Commissioners think they also have a selling point in quality. They believe their plant produces better-tasting water than Boynton’s.
Town Manager Linda Stumpf said a consultant, Kevin O’Donnell of Nova Energy Consultants in Cary, N.C., is finishing a rate study that will give the commissioners a better idea of what they can offer Hypoluxo. Stumpf said O’Donnell could have the numbers ready by the Nov. 15 town meeting, so the commission can accelerate efforts to make a proposal to Hypoluxo.
“We’ve got to do everything we can to secure our customer base,” Isaac said.
Overall, Hypoluxo accounts for about one-third of Manalapan’s total usage but accounts for roughly one-half of the town utility’s total revenues.
In other business:
• Stumpf said the completion date for the Audubon Causeway bridge project has been pushed back another two weeks because of problems replacing a water main. She said the contractor expects the work to be completed around Thanksgiving.
The town’s architectural commission has decided on the colors for the bridge walls: Alpine white, with gray trim.
• After considerable discussion, commissioners decided against writing an ordinance to protect nesting sea turtles and opted instead to continue adhering to regulations set by Palm Beach County. The state requires that municipalities have rules on the books to restrict light during nesting season, March through October.
The towns of Palm Beach and South Palm Beach have passed their own ordinances, said Town Attorney Keith Davis, but most coastal communities have not and follow the county rules.
Municipalities with their own ordinances must handle enforcement themselves.
“It’s an adversarial situation and I’d rather have the county be the adversary,” said Mayor David Cheifetz. Commissioners agreed.
By Dan Moffett