News Briefs: Controversial Water Utility Bill Sparks Debate

In this week’s municipal news, a New Jersey bill could simplify the sale of water utilities, a stormwater fee loses traction in Illinois and ice pigging comes to New York.
News Briefs: Controversial Water Utility Bill Sparks Debate

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To sell or not to sell. That’s the question several New Jersey towns need to answer as they prepare to upgrade drinking-water systems.

However, the decision to privatize utilities might not receive taxpayer input, which has sparked a heated debate in The Garden State.

The Water Infrastructure Protection Act floating through the state Senate would let towns bypass mandatory public votes on the sale of publicly owned water and sewer systems, which are aging and require costly infrastructure upgrades.

“No town should be in the public water supply business,” says Sen. Paul Sarlo on “And these towns don’t have the capital to invest in repairs to maintain these systems. So their reliability is in jeopardy and so is the quality of the drinking water.”

Critics of the bill are concerned with the fast-sale approach, removing ratepayers from the equation, and increased costs from privatizing water and sewer systems.


Utility Service Group Introduces New York to Ice Pigging

Bethlehem, N.Y., became the first community in New York to use Atlanta-based Utility Service Group’s exclusive ice-pigging operation. (See "What the Heck is Ice Pigging?")

“Given the amount of effort we put into flushing, it seemed worth a try,” says Eric T. Deyoe, Bethlehem’s commissioner of public works.

According to an article by the Times Union, residents in various Bethlehem neighborhoods complained for years about poor water quality despite the municipality’s efforts to flush waterlines weekly and provide water filters to residents.

Village of Scotia Superintendent of Public Works Andrew Kohout, who was in Bethlehem last month to witness the ice-pigging demonstration, was impressed with the process. He noted the dirty water coming from the pipes looked like “chocolate milk” compared to more of an iced tea-like consistency he’s accustomed to seeing with regular flushing.

Source: Times Union

City Council Rejects Stormwater Utility Fee

Galesburg, a small city of 32,000 in northwestern Illinois, faces up to $900,000 in budget cuts after the city council voted against a stormwater utility fee, reports Galesburg radio station WGIL.

According to WGIL, aldermen rejected a revised proposal that included a fee on businesses and homeowners to fund storm sewer repairs. That rejection resulted in a $433,000 budget shortfall.

“We’re putting our head into the storm sewer about the situation and not paying attention to a problem we have and the fact that this is yet a continuation of a problem we’ve been having, which is that we underfund infrastructure,” says Seventh Ward Alderman Jeremy Karlin.


Early Frost Has Utility Prepping For Busy Winter

Nancy Quirk, general manager for Green Bay (Wis.) Water Utility, knows that if this winter is as harsh as it was last year, her crews will be working overtime.

“If that happens, we’re going to be busy again like we were last year,” Quirk told WLUK-TV FOX 11.

Quirk says the water utility is preparing for frost depth to reach 6 to 7 feet as it did this past winter since November levels have already exceeded 1 1/2 feet in some areas.


City To Install Sensus Digital Water Meters 

Water utility customers in Lakeland, Fla., will soon be able to more closely monitor water use.

Bob Connor, interim director of water/wastewater utilities for the City of Lakeland, unveiled plans to spend $15 million over the next six years to install smart water meters.

Conner claims the meters will allow the city and its customers to monitor water usage and detect leaks.

Source: The Ledger


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