To the Editor:
I am writing this letter because I am upset about the handling of my water bill, specifically the way Barnegat Township shut off my water supply (without notice) and the water supply of many other residents. I want other people who are new to the area to be aware of the way the township responds to their concerns and issues.
I have been living here in Barnegat for less than seven months. Apparently, an error occurred with my billing address, of which I had no knowledge until my water was turned off on Monday, Sept. 26. It was after business hours and my family had to spend a day without water.
The following morning I went to the municipal building to inquire what was going on and was told that the bills and shut-off notice were sent to me, although I had not received them. Upon moving into my home seven months ago, I had called the water department with the current meter reading and explained I was the new owner. I thought I had done my part. Apparently, the bills and notices were being mailed to my old address and then they were returned to Barnegat Water Department without my knowledge.
You would think if the department received all of these back, a red flag would have gone up and maybe someone would have notified me. But instead, the township thought it better to shut off the water and have me incur extra fees. My lawn was ripped up and red and orange paint smeared across it in several places.
Even more disturbing was the abuse I had to endure at the municipal building while trying to understand what was going on. Upon initial questioning, a receptionist at the front desk said I should have paid my bill. I tried to explain I did not have a bill to pay when I saw Deputy Mayor Al Bille sitting nearby. I started to speak and did not finish one sentence when Mr. Bille went on to accuse me of receiving the notices and just not paying my bills. He then said to get out. I was appalled.
In the meantime, another Barnegat resident with the same water shut-off issue arrived and tried to speak to Mr. Bille. Again, Mr. Bille responded in a nasty manner and when the man suggested Al get a cup of coffee to calm down and maybe go outside to talk, Al replied, “You are threatening me” and called the police. As the police questioned this innocent man, all I could say was wow!
After this incident, I spoke with Tax Collector Crystal Brimson and Town Administrator Martin Lisella, who both told me they have a right to charge me the extra fees and were not going to do anything to help me out. This is after Crystal admitted all the notices came back to her and she knew I had not gotten them at my home.
They said if they made an exception for me, they would have to do so for 2,000 other people. Did 2,000 other residents have their water turned off that day? I know at least three did because they were there along with me. Is this a tactical way for the town to make money?
I asked for Mayor John Novak to call me, and when he did, I was astounded. He started the conversation by telling me that no matter what I said, he was not going to give me a different answer than his employees did earlier. Basically, he told me he is a lawyer, and he is right and I am wrong. I tried to explain I was appealing to him as a new resident of Barnegat and in good conscience to try and understand my situation. I also let him know I was not used to being treated in such an ugly manner as I had been by his staff that day and could not believe what transpired with the police.
He apologized for them and offered me a free copy of my tax statement (a $2 value) because that had also been mailed to the old address. Thank you, Mr. Mayor!
All I can still say is wow, wow, wow! I guess I should have looked more deeply into township news and reviews before purchasing a home here.