EAST ORANGE, NJ — Attorney Ashton Thomas, of Elizabeth, said he has contacted other East Orange Water Commission customers who are upset about the recent emergency temporary water rate increase instituted Saturday, Aug. 1, but retroactive to Friday, May 1, and plans to include their concerns in the details of the class action lawsuit he filed when he returns to Essex County Superior Court on Friday, Nov. 20.
The Essex County Superior Court has assigned the suit — docket No. L-7085-15 — against the EOWC to Judge Robert H. Gardner; it seeks an injunction against the EOWC’s rate hike “before the start of the heating season.”
Tim Young is the owner of two laundromats on Central Avenue who appeared at the public meeting of the EOWC on Wednesday, Oct. 14, and called the rate increase illegal as it bills customers retroactively to May, although they did not find out about it until they received their August water bills. He said the increase is costing him about $15,000 a month for both laundromats and $9,500 extra in the last 30 days alone, as of Wednesday, Oct. 14.
Young said the emergency temporary water rate increase was disproportionately large, when compared to the water rates of neighboring municipalities in Essex County, saying “None of those (Essex County) towns have had an increase like this,” Young said.
The attorney said Young is right about the discrepancy in the water rates between East Orange and its neighbors and that the intent of his lawsuit is “to protect the seniors, veterans and disabled adults who might well go without heat if their water services are shut off.”
Thomas said Tuesday, Oct. 27, that his suit “outlines the unconstitutional actions taken by the EOWC,” and that his complaint uses a “graph, exhibits, shows the true picture of water charges over time.”
“I will renew my request for an injunction to protect the residents of East Orange,” Thomas said.
“The exhibits show an abuse of office. I needed time to collect and review the record. I’m convinced that the water hike is a hidden tax increase.”