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Usage Rate for Sewer Bill to Increase 15 Percent

Average sewer customer in Lawrence Township will pay $85 more in 2012.

As expected, members of Lawrence Township Council during their meeting Tuesday evening (March 6) adopted a resolution officially authorizing the township to conduct .

Township Manager Richard Krawczun also announced during the meeting that Lawrence Township customers of Ewing-Lawrence Sewerage Authority will see a 15.23 percent increase to the usage rate used to calculate their sewer bill during 2012, an increase of about $85 for the “average” customer.

Discussions about state aid, the redevelopment of Brunswick Pike, capital improvement plan recommendations for 2012, and the transfer of two liquor licenses to Quaker Bridge Mall also took place at the meeting Tuesday.   

Referendum

For full background on the 9-cent municipal tax rate increase referendum, see the following stories:

  • Feb. 23: “”
  • Feb. 9: “”
  • Jan. 18: “”

The New Jersey Division of Local Government Services must approve the wording of the referendum question as it will appear on the April 17 ballot. Krawczun said preliminary approval has been given by the division but the township has filed an appeal because “currently the language, as it appears, is somewhat confusing and technical.”

Sewer Bill

Created in 1951, Ewing-Lawrence Sewerage Authority (ELSA) provides sewer service to Ewing and Lawrence townships, as well as a small area of Hopewell Township by way of Ewing Township’s network of pipes. The authority operates a 10.5-acre waste water treatment facility located off Whitehead Road in Lawrence, and has 10 pumping stations – seven in Ewing and three in Lawrence. Since there are more sewer connections in Ewing, 60 percent of fees charged to the municipalities by ELSA are paid by Ewing Township customers and the remaining 40 percent are paid by Lawrence Township customers.

During Tuesday’s meeting, Krawczun explained that Lawrence Township’s share of the ELSA bill for 2012 is $5,239,967.82 – an increase of $674,332.49 over 2011. As a result of that increase, the rate that ELSA customers in Lawrence will have to pay this year will be $4.54 per 100 cubic feet of water used, a 60-cent increase over the $3.94 rate charged in 2011. Using 14,200 cubic feet as the annual water consumption average, Krawczun said the average ELSA customer in town would pay $686.68 (including a $42 annual service fee) this year, compared to $601.48 (including the $42 service fee) last year.

When he appeared before township council Feb. 21 to discuss the increase, ELSA Executive Director Robert Filler explained that while ELSA’s budget for 2012 increased just 0.3 percent compared the 2011 budget, the authority has seen a significant decline in the revenue it receives from new construction connection fees, application fees and investment interest. About $1 million in revenue came from those sources in 2009, but just $395,000 was received in 2010 and only $150,000 last year.

“We’ve got a plant now that’s 60 years old and we have to constantly invest to keep it up-to-date,” he told council. “There’s no other place for us to get income but come to our townships, our two customers, and we’re going to try our best not to come for more next year…We have not shortcut service. We are still providing the same 24 hour service we always have. Yes, we are paying more for chemicals, more for energy, more for labor, more for insurance, more for everything else, but we have also fine-tuned our operation along the way – replacing where we had to replace personnel, and not replacing where we did not have to.”

An ordinance formally setting the new sewer rate will be introduced at the next council meeting on March 20.

(Audio of Filler’s presentation to township council can be listened to in its entirety by . Filler’s presentation begins at the 1:30 mark of the Feb. 21 Audio Part 1 file.)

State Aid

Also at the Feb. 21 meeting, township council adopted a resolution calling upon the state legislature to restore full funding to municipalities across the state by giving those municipalities their rightful “energy tax receipt” revenue (money collected by the state from utility companies for taxable property located within the municipalities).

Following up on that resolution,  Krawczun on Tuesday passed out a document showing that from 2001 through 2011 the state has shortchanged Lawrence Township by a total of nearly $11 million in energy tax revenue and other state aid.

During last year alone, going by the official calculation formula, Lawrence Township should have received $6,692,606 in state aid. Instead, the township received only $3,795,009, a shortfall of $2,897,597.    

“I think it should be pointed out so folks understand, when you look at these documents, that [in 2011] alone, if you base it on what the state was statutorily-obligated to give us – $6.6 million – we are at a deficit of $2.8 million,” Councilwoman Cathleen Lewis said. “If we indeed had that money that the state is obligated to give to this municipality we would not have to have a referendum this year, correct?”

“Absolutely not. And you would not have a 5-cent tax increase prior,” Krawczun responded.

Brunswick Pike Redevelopment

Also on Tuesday, Krawczun noted that a meeting took place Feb. 22 involving the township, the state Department of Transportation and engineering firm Parsons Brinckerhoff concerning the long-delayed plan to redevelop Brunswick Pike (Business Route 1) from the Brunswick Circle to Lake Drive.

“This has been a long project but we have an updated schedule,” he told council. “This year, they will finalize all the right-of-way plans. There is a small portion of right-of-way that needs to be acquired at the intersection of Whitehead Road and Brunswick Pike due to the installation of a roundabout. Final design plans are scheduled to be completed for January 2013. They will be reviewed and speced-out and then advertised for bid by December of 2013, with a March 2014 start date for construction. It is anticipated that construction will take approximately one year.”

Capital Improvement Plan

Krawczun also on Tuesday presented to council his recommendations for expenditures in the 2012 capital improvement plan. Among the $2.75 million in recommended expenditures are $650,000 for road repairs and improvements, $500,000 toward the purchase of a new fire truck, $265,000 for equipment for the police department to take part in a proposed new county-wide emergency radio system, $225,000 for a new street sweeper, $150,000 for new lighting at Colonial Lake Park and $30,000 for a new dog park at Hamnett Park.

“The items included in the capital improvement plan are just that. It is a plan. It is not the authority to spend any public funds. The only authority to spend public funds comes from the budget, capital ordinance or our trust accounts. That being said, an item must be included in the plan to then proceed to inclusion into a capital ordinance,” Krawczun explained.

With regard to the proposed dog park, Krawczun said, “I think it’s important that we recognize that there are some civic groups that have become very active and organized and are willing participants in their own neighborhoods. I think the Colonial Heights Civic Association is our newest example of neighbors coming together, willing to participate in their own community. I think that this is one of our ways to respond to that organization, to work with them to provide them a facility for their neighborhood... We’re hoping that this will generate additional community engagement through this asset.”

(A copy of the recommended capital expenditures can be found in the media box above; Krawczun’s discussion of the capital expenditures begins at the 11:45 mark of the meeting audio, which is also available from the media box above.)    

Other Business

  • Among the 14 resolutions adopted by council on Tuesday were two approving the transfer of two liquor licenses to Lawrence Associates, which with partner Simon Property Group owns Quaker Bridge Mall. One of the liquor licenses was previously held by Lawrence Grill LLC, a restaurant at the mall, and the other held “in pocket” by Lawrence Liquor LLC of 2495 Brunswick Pike (Lawrence Shopping Center).
  • An ordinance adopted by council Tuesday officially approved the appointment of Susan E. McCloskey as the township’s new municipal tax collector, replacing Alice Fish who retired March 1. The appointment of McCloskey, a longtime employee in the tax collector’s office, expires Dec. 31, 2016.  
Patrick March 08, 2012 at 12:29 PM
In regard to the "energy tax receipt”, Hamilton is suing the State. So maybe Lawrence needs to join in on that... This rip off has been getting worse and worse and an insult to taxpayers. Think about it, Christie is offering up a 10% tax break, yet is stealing the township's money... So we the property owners have to pay even more to a bogus flat tax cut that will only help the rich. How is this not the top story everyday on nj.com.
Patrick March 08, 2012 at 12:31 PM
info on the energy tax rip off... http://www.njslom.org/magazine/2010-05/magart-pg42.html
Linda March 08, 2012 at 08:26 PM
I will be there!
Linda March 08, 2012 at 08:26 PM
I will be there!
Linda March 08, 2012 at 08:36 PM
I am beginning to feel like Lawrence Council members and Richard Krawczun are my pimps! They have no shame. I am so angry I really don't give a hoot if they lay off every government worker from the top on down. This is all about the lack of pension and benefit monies and the lack of revenue to meet "their needs"! I am sick to death of hearing about schools, happy trails for humans and animals, police layoffs etc., etc. I am not an evil person, it is just that all I want to do is live. We are retired and we can't even plan a vacation anymore because we don't know what they will hit us with next! How are the rest of us in the non-plublic sector suppose to make it? We are so busy making sure that these creeps have a nice cushy retirement. Richard "creepy crawler" Krawczun says pass this increase or we will screw you with the trash. As far as I am concerned the only trash that is never picked up are the big kahunas who sit in power over us!
AntiBS March 09, 2012 at 12:12 AM
I think that Krawczun has brass balls sitting up on his throne and recommending a referendum and layoffs in the same sentence as a dog park. I dont give a flying F if a dog park costs a dollar how do you sleep at night knowing your screwing the taxpayers and recommend a dog park. I am so damn mad at this circus. I hope council enjoys their terms because I will be working to have voters vote against everyone seated right now. I am also contacting the governors office to raise hell about this foolishness. I am done takibg this crap. I cant afford to pay my bills and you morons want to spend money on a damn dog park.
Jackie March 09, 2012 at 12:25 AM
None of you get it. Nobody cares about your concerns. Council has left you with two positions, PAY after passing a referendum or PAY after defeating a referendum. Either way it's a lose lose for taxpayers. I hope council doesn't think that time will heal this because every month my checkbook will remind me of the job that the five council members and Krawczun have done representing the community. Wave to me on the porch of Homefront because that's where I am headed.
Crunch March 09, 2012 at 01:15 PM
Any reason why this article has been buried in "house and home" and taken off of the main page? Was it a mistake or is it an attempt to hide the article.
Michael Ratcliffe (Editor) March 09, 2012 at 02:32 PM
You are correct that the "House and Home" category designation was an error. It was inadvertently clicked along with the "Government" category. But there is no attempt to hide the article. We want as many people as possible to read each of our articles. This was moved down because the stories are listed chronologically and this one was first posted at 5 a.m. Thursday. But I agree that this story is important and should remain near the top for a little longer, so I will manually override the time order. Thanks for reading.
Robert Wysienski March 09, 2012 at 02:56 PM
The township needs to cut spending. It's ridiculous! I had to cut spending just to survive. No raise this year!!
Richard March 09, 2012 at 09:59 PM
No raises for any township employee & start furlough days like the state did. The township is also in the real estate business, they bought up old motels, etc..all over the township...Now is the time to put these properties up for sale...It's called liquidation during hard times. This is exactly why folks are angry about the wasteful spending. There is no reason for the township to buy properties that do not generate revenue to begin with.
Crunch March 10, 2012 at 04:06 AM
You would throw up in your mouth if you saw the paychecks of the cops, the quarter of a million dollars in overtime spending, the mismanagement of the police department and how the deputy chief and lieutenants do nothing but run to dunkin donuts 5 times a day. The cops are living in half million dollar houses, driving fifty thousand dollar cars and taking 5 vacations a year. Krawczun is making 170,000+ and the chief is making 150,000+ for managing this mess. Lieutenants 130,000+, sergeants 120,000+ and cops 100,000+.
Crunch March 10, 2012 at 04:10 AM
Www.app.com
Linda March 10, 2012 at 05:42 AM
How sweet it is Crunch. No wonder they want to kill each other (figure of speech) for these jobs!
Blueline March 10, 2012 at 07:26 AM
Sure thing Crunch and Linda, lay off cops. Just DO NOT be the first one to call when you are in trouble or your house is burglarized. Just don't bother calling. Suck it up and do your part for the town in decreasing costs. How did the police and fire "hero's" become the enemy of every town and the state in such a short time. The majority of knowledgeable people know and understand what it costs to have good police and fire. They don't balk at every expense and dissect their salaries. The wasteful spending is in many other areas. Remember this too - if you lay off cops, the requirements for staffing DO NOT change. Therefore, with the decreased manpower, overtime is mandatory to cover the shortage. So you pay ANYWAY. Find another avenue to vent your frustration because the police are the ONLY workers in this town who took pay cuts this year in the form of pension and health care benefit reforms.
Linda March 10, 2012 at 07:38 AM
Is there no inbetween? I am sure there is plenty of waste on the police force too. That is not to say or assume that I disrespect the uniform, but respect works both ways. This isn't exactly New York City or Philadelphia either. These are tough times for everyone and it is not the time to be raising taxes on anyone. They need to balance the budget and put pay freezes in place. They could start by laying off the Manager Mr. Krawczun, who apparently is a failure at management and take it from there. When there is a crunch the first thing they threaten to do is lay off police. It is a scare tactic that is getting worn out! Are you an officer?
Winston March 10, 2012 at 12:52 PM
Cops and firemen need to be realistic and rational. Most suburban towns have too many cops compared to the crime rate. This was caused by town council seeking their political support to get reeleceted. The blame is on the politicians and unions...they, as Blueline has proven, have politicized our public safety so they can hide behind their badge and firehouse anytime someone questions their salary and benefits. In addition, the fireman unions are working on a long term plan to destroy volunteer first responders. They want to replace the over 60% of fireman, which are volunteers with union members. This will bankrupt many smaller towns. It's seems like some...but not all...cops are acting somewhat cowardly. Rather than manup and admit they are part of the financial problem they launch veiled threats.
Frank Lee March 10, 2012 at 09:36 PM
We should be billed for sewer service based on winter water consumption, as they do in other municipalities. For example: http://www.ci.maplewood.mn.us/index.aspx?NID=441
John Howard March 05, 2014 at 07:37 PM
My friend just got his master's degree in public administration. He now works as the assistant to the city manager, which he really likes. Since working there he has told me so many things that government does that is important and taking care of the sewer is one of those things. Even though you have to pay more it good to have the city take care of the sewer. http://www.pebbleworkspoolsurfacing.com

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