Assemblyman Troy Singleton helped bring the deal to fruition, after hearing concerns from member of the community.
Moorestown, NJ -- Moorestown officials and New Jersey American Water Company have reached an agreement to amend the current contract between the two entities to cap the cost for water purchased between Aug. 1, 2016, and the end of the calendar year at a fixed fee of $1.5 million, Moorestown Mayor Phil Garwood announced Monday afternoon.
The agreement was approved by a unanimous vote of council Monday night.
The amended agreement will save taxpayers in the township an estimated $1.1 million this year, according to Garwood, who said the agreement was reached with “significant help” from State Assemblyman Troy Singleton (D-7).
Moorestown has been forced to buy its water from New Jersey American since it had to shut two water wells at the North Church Street Water Treatment Plant after Trichloropropane 1,2,3 (TCP 1,2,3) were detected in the water a few years ago.
“New Jersey American Water recognizes the challenges that the closure of Wells #7 and #9 presented, and we appreciate their willingness to agree to this good faith solution to ease the burden on our township and our taxpayers,” Garwood said. “This is a terrific result for our property taxpayers, and proof that elected officials in different parties can work together effectively to get things done for their shared constituents. Assemblyman Singleton has worked closely with us and New Jersey American Water on this issue, and we would not have been able to secure this commitment from NJAWC without his help and his hard work.”
Garwood and Township Solicitor Anthony Drollas said the water company extended the offer to township officials.
“They are part of the community as well, and they realized it is better to work together,” said Garwood, who described the water company’s offer as a “gesture of good faith.”
“This agreement represents another example of New Jersey American Water’s ability to assist neighboring water systems that find themselves in need of solutions," the water company said in a statement. "We will continue to help Moorestown and any other community faced with ever growing infrastructure and water quality challenges.”
The offer is a one-time amendment to the current contract, good through the end of the year, Drollas said.
Moorestown spent $2 million more than its $2.1 million contractual obligation between 2014 and 2015.
The township was on track to spend even more this year before New Jersey American Water's offer.
In 2016 again they are buying $2 million more than their contractual obligation but that would have been 3 million or more
"It was becoming cost-prohibitive," Drollas said. "This gets us in the same ballpark as what we were paying in 2015."
Following the announcement of Monday’s deal, there was talk of bipartisanship, as the Republican Mayor of Moorestown worked with the township’s Democratic representative in the assembly to get the deal done.
“As this Town Council has made clear from the start, ensuring high-quality drinking water for all of our families should never be about partisan politics, but rather about bipartisan cooperation,” Councilman Manny Delgado said. “As a resident and taxpayers of Moorestown, I am thrilled about what was accomplished. As an elected representative of the town, I am pleased with how it was accomplished.”
Singleton has taken an interest in the issue since 2014, when he announced support for legislation that would establish safe maximum contaminant levels for TCP 1,2,3.
Singleton said he was able to facilitate a meeting between the township and the water company due to his existing working relationship with the water company.
“There were concerns raised by members of the community, and I heard them,” Singleton said. “I brought them together and there was some back and forth. … Once the discussions began, it was an easy conversation to have.”
The Moorestown Water Group is a group of concerned citizens that formed after TCP 1,2,3 and TCE were discovered in the water. The group has worked to bring the issue to the forefront of the issues discussed in the township.
Singleton said he heard concerns from this group, and other members of the community.
“My district office is in Moorestown, and you can’t go to Starbucks without hearing about this issue,” Singleton said.
The water group issued a statement on Tuesday in which Democratic Council candidate and Moorestown Water Group co-founder, Kati Angelini said she is thrilled to see government working the way it is supposed to for taxpayers.
“I couldn’t be happier with the outcome and this wouldn’t have happened without the support of Moorestown residents,” Angelini said.
“I am very pleased that the Township was able work with NJAW to find ways to reduce our water expenditure,” Councilwoman Lisa Petriello said. “It’s activity that I, and others from the community have advocated for many months. I am pleased to see that prolonged advocacy, on behalf of our taxpaying residents, has come to fruition.”
In the past, Moorestown Water Group member Michael Babcock has asked the township if it could enter into a Commodity-Demand agreement with the water company.
According to the contract agreed to in 2000, Moorestown has the right at any time to execute a Commodity-Demand with New Jersey American Water, as long as the demand under that contract is maintains a certain firm capacity rate.
Moorestown has been unable to maintain that capacity, as highlighted by an Administrative Consent Order issued by the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection (NJDEP) earlier this year.
Moorestown Utilities Manager L. Russell Trice offered three possibilities for dealing with that issue during the workshop portion of Monday night’s meeting:
- Upgrading the water treatment plants at North Church Street and Hartford Road;
- Close the North Church Street Plant and add more wells to the Hartford Road Plant; and
- Close both North Church Street and Hartford Road plants, and get all water from New Jersey American.
All three options assume upgrades will be made at the Kings Highway Treatment Plant. On Monday night, council gave final approval to a proposed ordinance to appropriate an additional $7,175,000 to upgrades at that plant.
The Hartford Road Water Treatment Plant has been closed for about 20 years. On Monday night, council said it has been closed for structural deficiencies that would need to be addressed. The soil would also have to be tested for contaminants.
The expansion of the Hartford Road Treatment Plant may involve the purchase of additional land, something Deputy Mayor Victoria Napolitano expressed concern over.
"We would have to purchase land before we could even do the test drilling, so that concerns me a little," Napolitano said.
She also said she likes the idea of having wells on opposite ends of town in case one site has contaminated soil, there would always be another site that may be unaffected.
"We've been talking about Hartford Road for a while, and I think it's time to look into it," Councilwoman Stacey Jordan said.
Those proposals deal with the permanent treatment. Moorestown Council previously approved the purchase of equipment for temporary treatment of the wells at North Church Street.