The city will charge builders an almost $1,900 sewer connection fee on new single-family homes, according to an ordinance passed by the City Council last week.
Under the measure approved on Jun. 26, the city will charge $1,877 for a single-family, $5,631 for a three-unit residential building. Fees for non-residential constructions will be calculated based on wastewater flow. For example, a 20,000 square feet office building or shopping center with a projected flow of 0.1 gal/sf/day will pay $14,167.
The fees were much steeper in the initial ordinance presented to the council in May. For example, the fee for a single-family home was $3,100. Municipal officials had used erroneous total connection numbers to divide up the sewer repair burden to determine the connection fee.
Some opposed the new connection fee by questioning the calculation and suggesting it will stifle economic development.
“I’m very much uncomfortable with this calculation,” said William McKoy, 3rd Ward councilman, speaking about the number of connections. The city has 35,322 sewer connections, according to city records.
“If we want to attract more people to come in and develop our city, we need to make sure we’re not trying to scare them [off],” said Luis Velez, 5th Ward councilman. He argued the fee is too onerous for small-time developers.
“Some developments are small. They won’t have to money to pay the fee,” said Velez.
Others favored it, arguing it will bring in revenue. Municipal officials had estimated the measure would bring in millions in revenue based on faulty new connection increases per year.
“It’s about time,” said Shahin Khalique, 2nd Ward councilman.
“It’s a way to generate revenue for our cash strapped coffers,” added Andre Sayegh, 6th Ward councilman. He would be sworn in as mayor the following week.
The council initially voted 4-3. Maritza Davila, Khalique, Sayegh, and Ruby Cotton voted in favor while Michael Jackson, McKoy, and Velez voted against. The ordinance required five affirmative votes.
“This was done to infuse money into the budget,” said mayor Jane Williams-Warren. “Other municipalities have a connection fee.”
Other towns like Clifton, Newark, and Jersey City have sewer connection fees.
Velez switched his vote in favor allowing the ordinance to pass.