Mayor Carmen F. Amato Jr. and several Township Council members will testify against United Water Toms River's request for a rate increase at a public hearing on Thursday.
The hearing gets underway at 5 p.m. and will run until 8 p.m. in the Township Council meeting room in Town Hall at 627 Pinewald-Keswick Road.
"We plan to vehemently fight against this increase and use every resource we have to stop it," Amato said.
United Water Operations Director Rick Pfleiderer has said the increase is needed to recover roughly $18 million in water system improvements the company has made or is currently working on since its last rate filing three years ago.
“We fully recognize that nobody likes to see any increase in their water rates," Pfleiderer has said. "We are very mindful of our costs and have been completely transparent in our explanation of the need for rate relief to our customers and elected officials.”
Pfleiderer has said the company has invested nearly $5.6 million in new water transmission mains. United Water installed distribution mains to help with system redundancy in an effort to improve service reliability and firefighting pressure.
But Amato said the proposed rate increase - the second in three years - will further hurt township residents who are still displaced or rebuilding after Superstorm Sandy.
United Water's request for a $6.6 million rate increase will raise the average Berkeley Township residential water bill by 25 percent, a hike the mayor has called "unconscionable," just three months after the storm.
United Water filed the request for a rate increase before Sandy hit. But Berkeley had "millions" in damages both to homes and businesses, the mayor said.
"Many affected residents are still displaced due to the storm," Amato said. "The fact remains that United Water Toms River continues to move forward and thinks it's an appropriate time to seek a substantial water rate increase? Obviously, it is not."
United Water Toms River services roughly 120,000 homes in the Holiday City, Silver Ridge Park and Manitou Park sections of Berkeley Township, in addition to Toms River.
United Water also invested $2.7 million to improve its Berkeley Water Treatment Plant, which eliminates radionuclides from the drinking water, and at its Holly Water Treatment Plant, which treats volatile organic chemicals, Pfleiderer has said.
United Water also made improvements to its aquifer storage and recovery wells to improve its ability to provide water during the crucial summer months, he has said.
Both Township Councilman John Bacchione and Township Councilwoman Judy Noonan also plan to attend the public hearing, Amato said.