VILLAS — While most of the news of Lower Township Municipal Utilities Authority (MUA) during the last quarter of the year focused on personnel issues, the utility made progress in a number of areas including construction of two water towers, new wells and taking bids for water main installation on four roads in Villas.
The MUA Board of Commissioners issued a year-end report of accomplishments. Among the highlights:
• A new 750,000-gallon water tower at the county airport.
• Two new wells at the airport.
• A new 500,000-gallon water tower next to the Millman Center, funded through a $1.8 million low interest USDA loan and $625,000 USDA grant. It should be placed in service by next summer.
• Taking bids to install new water mains on Bayshore Road, Florida and Jacksonville avenues and Peters Road.
• Shared service agreement to purchase fuel from county at an estimated annual savings of $40,000.
• Initiated numerous operation efficiencies with an estimated cost savings of $750,000.
Lower MUA Executive Director Mike DeMarcantonio told the Herald the utility hopes to have installation of a 50-kilowatt solar energy field completed by the end of January at the sewer treatment plant. He said MUA would like to either increase the size of the solar field or install a wind turbine to generate 150 kilowatts.
“That 50 kwh cost us nothing to build and absolutely nothing for the electricity for 15 years,” said DeMarcantonio. “That’s a very good deal for us. We didn’t have to any capital out upfront.”
The plant uses about 1,000 kilowatts per hour, he said. MUA is seeking a $126,000 state grant to build a wind turbine combined with a power purchase agreement so the power is generated at no cost to the utility.
DeMarcantonio said Lower MUA is a member of a Joint Insurance Fund, which is seeking to form a consortium to purchase electricity and natural gas at a reduced rate.
MUA has applied for $12 million in USDA funding to install water mains in Town Bank.
If the Town Bank project is approved by USDA, connection fees from homeowners may be able to be “rolled over” to continue water main installation through Villas with the same $12 million loan, said DeMarcantonio.
He said he hoped connection fees from homeowners on Bayshore Road, Florida and Jacksonville avenues and Peters Road, would allow another street to be put out for bid in Villas.
“We off of dead center, we’re now getting water out to the people that need it,” said DeMarcantonio.
Lower MUA is the last, local municipal utility authority in the county with the county MUA handling all waste water treatment in the county. DeMarcantonio said it would not be out of the realm of possibility for the county to take over Lower MUA, the township to dissolve the utility or New Jersey American to make an offer on the water system.
“We need to be diligent and responsible to our ratepayers,” he said.
DeMarcantonio said he estimated every home in Villas and Town Bank that currently has sewer service would have municipal water in five to 10 years. He noted some homeowners have been waiting 30 years for water service.
While 25 percent to 30 percent water and sewer rate increases could have been justified this year, the board of commissioners raised sewer rates only 5 percent and water rates by 10 percent because of the economic downturn.
With a mandatory water connection ordinance in effect, DeMarcantonio said he hoped future rate increases would not be necessary in the near future as more ratepayers come on board.
The Board of Commissioners report notes various employee contracts require a 25 percent increase in health insurance costs or $116,000 to a total of $495,792 to insure MUA employees. To offset these and other increased cost, salary and wage increases mandated by contracts, management instituted a series of job consolidations that will save approximately $123,000 this year, notes the report.
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