By Margie Plunkett
Water was a standout issue at Manalapan’s budget workshop in August, with the $5.4 million utility budget rising $1.3 million over 2008 as a result of recommended improvements to meet fire safety standards.
The bulk of the increase was due to capital improvements, including $2.6 million in water main upgrades. In light of the expense, Mayor Tom Gerrard told administrators, water rates should be reviewed quickly for a possible rate increase. But even if the price goes up, he said, Manalapan residents will still have among the least expensive water.
Commissioners voiced incredulity at the debt the water utility was creating in a small town and called for it to be operated like a business, noting the water system was a problem they inherited and that hadn’t been sufficiently upgraded in a long, long time. They wondered if joining another town’s system would make water delivery more efficient, although it didn’t appear immediately that was an option.
“There’s a lot of mass inefficiency down here as everyone has their own plant,” said Commissioner Tom Thornton.
A June report by Mock Roos recommended improvements, including sizing selected water mains to raise water pressure that in some areas of Manalapan and Hypoluxo is too low by fire safety standards. It also recommended adding a booster pump at the water plant and installing more fire hydrants, work that could necessitate increasing water rates for Manalapan residents as well as Hypoluxo, which is served by the water system.
The town also would benefit from interconnecting with Boynton Beach’s water supply for emergency purposes. The two towns would have to strike an agreement before an interconnection was possible. About $2 million in the fiscal 2009-10 utility budget carries over from last year to cover the Boynton Beach interconnection, work on the well started in 2008, legal matters related to the well, and water main upgrades. Meanwhile, the water utility runs at capacity in the morning when irrigation is allowed. Town Manager Greg Dunham reported that varied irrigation times would be set to ease the operation.