Government

Glen Rock Filing Appeal on Ridgewood Water Court Decision

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GLEN ROCK - The borough, along with Wyckoff and Midland Park, are appealing the Ridgewood Water lawsuit court decision to remand the issue of water usage overpayment back to the Village of Ridgewood, the entity that oversees the utility.

"A judge ruled in our favor, presumably," Mayor Bruce Packer said on Sept. 25. "But lawyer's fees were not awarded and the amount owed to the three towns in the suit was not addressed by the court."

Packer said, in a synopsis of the case that began in 2010, the Village of Ridgewood had charged Ridgewood Water $5.7 million for several village expenses, including police and fire, health insurance, municipal attorney, engineering and early retirement payments for Ridgewood employees.

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Ridgewood Water increased user fees 37 percent in 2010, 2011 and 2012 combined. The justification for the rate increase, according to court documents, "was an alleged deficit in Water Utility operations, but the improper allocation of Ridgewood expenses to the [utility] demonstrated...the 'deficit' was a sham."

The rate increase occurred without a rate study, an issue with which presiding Judge Friscia agreed.

The rate increase allowed the utility to accumulate $11.8 million in reserve funds. Glen Rock and the two other towns involved, are seeking these funds they believe were inappropriately charged to Ridgewood Water customers.

In the July 20 decision that agreed with the suing towns, the court remanded the issue back to the Ridgewood Governing Body, ..."essentially, the same governing body that arbitrarily raised water rates..." over a five-year period, the essence of the original complaint.

The appeal raises four issues, the crux of which is failing to award the three municipalities the $3.6 million sought in damages in spite of the court agreeing with the towns' arguments and awarding attorney fees, which Mayor Packer said are "substantial."

Ridgewood may counter appeal, but this has not yet been determined.

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