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Old 02-04-2010, 01:38 PM
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Fort Lee sues BCUA

BCUA is the entity that gave us nothing for our sewage plant.

Fort Lee sues utilities authority over sewage fees
Monday, February 1, 2010
The Record
Staff Writer

FORT LEE — The borough has sued the Bergen County Utilities Authority, claiming the authority’s new formula for calculating sewage costs unfairly overcharged residents hundreds of thousands of dollars by imposing a county-wide average, not the actual amount of sewage produced.

Borough residents could have seen a municipal tax refund in 2009, had the extra charges not been assessed, Mayor Mark Sokolich said Monday.

“Fort Lee is being completely exploited,” he said.

The borough’s sewage bills have increased $1.3 million since the BCUA started its new billing practices, Sokolich said.

Fort Lee is one of four towns that have a combined sewer system: sanitary sewage flows in the same pipes as storm-water runoff.

Before 2007, the BCUA billed municipalities for the exact amount of effluent each produced, plus common maintenance and debt-service charges, the suit states.

But the authority, upon recommendation of a consulting group, changed its billing practices in 2007. Now, each town now pays an average of the total amount of sewage processed by the facility, whether or not the town produced that amount, the suit states.

And Fort Lee’s new charges are not in proportion to its effluent production, Sokolich said. Because storm water is included in Fort Lee’s sewage, the amount of flow is large, but the actual concentration of sanitary sewage is low, he said.

The borough’s 2007 bill increased by $667,000 — 24 percent— from 2006, almost double the authority’s prediction for the new formula, the suit states. Fort Lee paid an additional $468,000 in 2008 and $255,000 more in 2009, about 41 percent more than in 2006, the suit states.

“It’s only fair to bill us on what the actual concentration is,” Sokolich said.

The borough sends about 6 million gallons a day through its sewer pipes, he said.

And while Fort Lee is paying more, 18 towns are paying less than their 2006 bills, Sokolich said.

“We are subsidizing other towns,” he said.

The higher fees cancel out the revenues of several borough cost-saving initiatives, such as the ambulance co-pay program, which brings in about $800,000, or the $500,000 savings from a municipal hiring freeze, Sokolich said.

“Every cost-saving thing we come up with gets wiped out because of their arbitrary determination of BCUA fees,” council President Jan Goldberg said.

The borough claims in the four-count suit that the BCUA is violating state law, because the new billing formula doesn’t treat each municipality equally. The lawsuit, filed last week in state Superior Court in Hackensack, asks the BCUA to return to its old methodology of calculating a town’s sewage bills.

Ridgefield Park, Hackensack, and parts of Cliffside Park also have combined systems, Sokolich said.

BCUA officials agreed in December 2009 to use a different formula to calculate runoff on rainy days for towns with combined sewerage systems, Sokolich said. BCUA said Fort Lee would have saved about $49,000 in 2009 using this formula, the suit states.

But this is an “insignificant reduction,” the suit states.

Sokolich said he is finished trying to resolve the issue.

“I implore the BCUA commissioners to rethink this assault on my community,” he said. “They have placed an unsurmountable burden on our taxpayers.”

BCUA Acting Executive Director Richard Wierer did not respond to requests for comment.

E-mail: firschein@northjersey.com

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Old 02-04-2010, 04:14 PM
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Re: Fort Lee sues BCUA

Originally Posted by Mike View Post
But the authority, upon recommendation of a consulting group, changed its billing practices in 2007.
Hmmm.... I wonder who that might be?
Proudly protecting EDGEWATER residents!
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Old 02-05-2010, 05:15 PM
northjersey northjersey is offline
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Re: Fort Lee sues BCUA

Remember that Christiansen, in addition to his "sometimes show" job at PVSC, is also chair of the BCUA, installed in that position by McNerney (and Ferriero). KATHE DONOVAN FOR COUNTY EXECUTIVE!
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bcua, bryan christiansen, litigation, mark sokolich, richard wierer, sewage

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