BY MICHAEL RICONDA
New City – The Rockland County legislature approved a motion calling on Albany to reject United Water’s planned rate increase and surcharge in the latest blowback against the utility’s plan to finance its proposed desalination plant and other plans.
The resolution passed with little fanfare and no public comment from legislators, but was unanimous and officially marked the legislature’s opposition to United Water’s rate increases.
The controversy emerged when United Water announced it had applied with the state for a $15 quarterly surcharge meant to pay for desalination pre-construction costs and a $35 quarterly rate increase to pay for recent updates and infrastructure improvements. If approved, the rate increase would bump up customers’ quarterly bills by 29 percent.
Though United Water argues the increases are meant to control costs and will ultimately mean long-term cost reductions, legislators had expressed concern that the surcharge was a premature step given the plan has not yet been approved by the state’s Public Service Commission and would add further financial strain on residents where the burden should fall on United Water.
Consequently, Legislators Ilan Schoenberger and Alden Wolfe obtained “party status” on the issue, which will allow them to give testimony and attend events such as hearings pertaining to the increases.
The legislature also joined by all five towns in Rockland and the villages of Grandview, West Haverstraw, and Sloatsburg to form a Municipal Consortium which will fight the increase through their legal representation, Attorney Daniel Duthie.
The legislature has also been joined by other voices from both local and state government. Both Assemblyman Ken Zebrowski and State Senator David Carlucci have expressed strong skepticism of the plan, and County Executive C. Scott Vanderhoef joined the legislature in seeking party status.