Ordinance for new water plant lease introduced

City Council took the next step toward a new long-term lease agreement for the city’s water treatment plant.

Rahway Water Treatment PlanThe governing body introduced an ordinance (O-3-17) during its regular meeting on Monday night that would authorize the award of a 20-year services agreement to Suez Environmental Services. The ordinance was introduced by a unanimous vote with no comment from council members. A public hearing and final adoption is tentatively scheduled for the April 10 regular meeting.

City Council also introduced ordinances to increase sewer fees (O-8-17) and water fees (O-9-17). Those ordinances are likely to come up for a public hearing and final adoption at the March 13 regular meeting. I’ll review more details on those two ordinances in an upcoming post.

Ahead of the April public hearing on the lease agreement ordinance, the city is awaiting approval on applications to the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP), Local Finance Board (LFB), and Board of Public Utilities (BPU). Approvals could be expected by March.

City Council also approved a resolution (AR-51-17) authorizing $229,067 for replacement of the granular activated carbon filters, sodium hypochlorite tanks, and pump station roof at the water treatment plant.

The city held a public hearing on the new lease agreement last month, explaining projected finances over the next 20 years of operations on the Westfield Avenue facility. Among the suggestions from the public that night came from a representative of Food & Water Watch who suggested the city use the remaining two years on the existing lease to fully consider all its options.

a8ea7-waterThe current lease began in 1999 and does not expire until September 2019. If all the approvals are granted in time, the new agreement would take effect in May, replacing the final two years of the current lease. Terms of the lease are similar to the existing deal in that the city would retain ownership of the plant and the right to set water rates with any water utility surplus channeled back to the city budget.

City Council introduced an ordinance last fall on a different version of the long-term lease but that was ultimately tabled. The previous version included a concession fee structure, which apparently was a stumbling block for state Local Finance Board (LFB) approval.

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