TOMS RIVER, NJ – Towns across Ocean County have been passing resolutions to oppose the proposed 25% rate hike for customers of New Jersey Natural Gas. The Ocean County Board of Commissioners have opposed the exorbitant hike and this week, Mayor Carmen Amato in Berkeley Township followed suit.
“Six years ago they proposed a 24 percent increase in rates. Just 3 short years ago, they proposed another 19 percent increase in rates. To be back so soon for another large increase is totally unacceptable.” Mayor Amato said.
According to New Jersey Natural Gas, their proposed rate increase will raise an average monthly bill to $141.17, up $28.07, or 24.8%, for a typical customer who uses 100 therms a month.
“Ocean County is home to one of the largest senior citizen populations in the state. Many of our seniors are living on fixed incomes and will face a financial crisis if this enormous increase is approved,” said Ocean County Commissioner Joseph H. Vicari.
In Toms River, on Tuesday, instead of introducing a resolution to oppose the steep rate hike, Toms River Mayor Maurice Hill and Council President Kevin Geohegan proposed a vote to renew the township’s contract with the energy provider.
“Other towns and even the county have passed resolutions to oppose this rate hike,” said Councilman Daniel Rodrick. “I don’t see why we are here voting to renew the contract.”
Rodrick was silenced by Geoghegan during his comments Tuesday night. At one point, the township even turned off Rodrick’s microphone.
The vote to renew the contract was approved by a 6-1 vote with Rodrick being the only no vote. Republican Maria Maruca joined Geoghegan and voted yes to the rate hike for her constituents in Ortley Beach.
Terrance Turnbach, Laurie Huryk, Josh Kopp and Matt Lotano also voted in favor of increasing rates for township residents.
Rodrick said he voted no because he felt the contract expiration could have given the township negotiation leverage if other members would join him in opposition of the rate hike. His request fell on deaf ears with the other council members who pushed through a vote to approve the utility’s monopoly contract in the township.
South of Toms River, Mayor Carmen Amato said the rate hike is too much, too soon after the utility’s last rate hike and during a global pandemic.
“The proposed increase would create an undue financial hardship on our homeowners. Especially our senior citizens who struggle on a daily basis to make ends meet. I am calling on the executives of NJNG to sharpen their pencils and re think this excessive and unreasonable increase.” Berkeley Mayor Amato said.