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Green Initiatives Chairwoman Suggests Ways to Conserve

Consolidated utility, water and fuel usage report presented to the borough council.

Cindy Steffens went before the Council Monday with several ideas on how the borough can both save money and conserve water, electricity and fuel.

Steffens, the chairwoman of the Green Initiatives Committee, presented a consolidated water, electric and fuel usage report to the council. The report pointed out usage habits over the years and contained several areas where Steffens said the borough could save money.

Mayor Bruce Harris said "Former Mayor [Dick] Plambeck kept good track of water usage data," and he hoped to modernize the data and use it "to talk about water consumption in our homes."

Nationally, Harris said, people use an average of 110 gallons per person per day. As water becomes "an increasingly scarce resource," he hopes borough residents will "be more conscious of their water usage."

In the water report, Steffens showed water pumped in the borough remained more or less constant, between about 325 and 375 million gallons. The only exception, which Steffens called an anomaly, came in 2006 when the borough temporarily had to hook into New Jersey American Water for their water supply.

The difference between water pumped and water billed, though, was abnormally high, about 20 to 25 percent. Steffens said some of this could be because the borough does not bill for water pumped from fire hydrants, but the difference should not be so high.

"We are consistently pumping more water than we're billing," Steffens said. "We don't really have a way to account for fire hydrant water, and we don't bill it," she said.

Additionally, hydrants are flushed twice a year, and the borough "also used a fair bit of water" for the sewer line project from fall 1999 through the start of 2012.

Still, the council said, 20 to 25 percent is abnormally high. "It should be around 15 percent," Harris said, while some council members said it could be as high as 20 percent.

The difference between the two amounts could also be explained by leaks in the water system.

Borough Engineer Vincent J. DeNave said he would reach out to department heads to see if hydrant water could account for the differences. Otherwise, he could reach out to surrounding towns to see if their water companies use advanced technology, including infrared technology, to test for leaks.

Quarterly, usage and billing are "as expected," Steffens said, with highest usage coming during the third-quarter summer months, and since billing lags, highest billing comes during the fourth quarter.

"We're going to continue to track this data," Harris said. He hopes to put a calculator on the Chatham Borough Web site so residents can look at their bills and see how many gallons per person they consume.

Steffens' presentation also shows how much natural gas and electricity is consumed by the , the and the over the last five years.

For the most part, usage remained flat from 2007 until 2011. "You're going to see all the usage in all the buildings shoot up in 2011, as you would expect because of Hurricane Irene and the October snow storm," Steffens said.

The only building which is trending upwards "pretty much consistency" is the borough municipal building. Steffens said usage should decrease in 2012 because energy-efficient machines were installed in all three buildings in the winter, "so we think we'll be seeing some of the impact of that in 2012."

As part of the town's Sustainable Jersey certification, the Green Initiatives Committee also completed a fleet inventory. Steffens recommended replacing some of the borough's larger and older vehicles with hybrids.

"The initial capital outlay is greater for a hybrid vehicle," Steffens said, the borough can "recoup the capital back relatively quickly through lowered energy costs."

She especially noted a Dodge Durango which gets about 10.5 miles per gallon. By replacing that vehicle with a Ford Escape hybrid, which gets about 31 miles per gallon, the borough would save $1,800 in fuel per year, assuming gas costs about $4 per gallon. The Durango is scheduled to be replaced in 2014, and though the Escape costs about $5,000 more, "we'd recoup that in about two-and-a-half years," Steffens said.

Also during the meeting:

  • Harris announced the council will meet only once in July, on July 9.
  • The council created the position of Qualified Purchasing Agent and appointed CFO Michael Mariniello to the role at no additional compensation.
  • Denis Driscoll gave the council an update on the case against TriCare, LLC. The case is still in the discovery phase with depositions ongoing. Driscoll said the borough will soon go for a case management order before the Hon. David Rand.
  • The council authorized a settlement in a tax appeal by Maurice M. Weill, a trustee for the care of Kings. The settlement offers a tax credit in the amount of $3,844,800 for 2010 and $3,750,000 for 2011. Weill agreed to waive statutory interest if the refund is credited within 60 days.
  • The council passed a resolution attesting to their compliance with local finance board requirements in the annual audit.
  • The council approved the refund of an overpayment of property taxes to Pakiwoda, Ryszard and Bogoslava for their property at 135 Center Ave.
  • The council approved the resignation of Charles Salin, a firefighter and driver for the , and approved Stephen Williams as his replacement.
  • The council awarded the contract for the 2012 Sidewalk and Curb Program to M. Sky Construction Corp. of Lake Hopatcong for the price of $61,335.
  • The council authorized the mayor to sign a license agreement with New Jersey Transit for a parcel of land adjacent to 102 Summit Ave. for the recycling center.
  • The council authorized the mayor to sign an access permit with New Jersey Transit which will allow the borough to open up restrooms in the station on days the Farmers Market is open.
  • The council approved a $1,000 donation from Epoc Films, which at the .
  • The council approved the payment of vouchers.
Ron Swanson June 12, 2012 at 01:47 PM
Why should residents monitor their water usage, when good conservation efforts on the part of residents are rewarded with a huge increase in water and sewer rates? The Borough appears to be more concerned about revenues than conservation, so maybe residents should help out by opening up the garden hoses and letting the meters spin. Also, before hitting residents with the bill for the 25% of water that's pumped but not billed, the Borough should make every effort to get the amount of pumped and unbilled water usage by various Borough employees down to a minimal amount. 25% is ridiculous. On another note, there's a reason why hybrid vehicle sales are lagging, even in the face of high gasoline prices: they are extremely expensive relative to the fuel savings generated. Payback periods are very long - I would look at those payback numbers very carefully before jumping into purchasing hybrid cars. They are often not worth the investment.

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