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More Than 100 Princeton Homeowners Being Billed for Sewer Project from a Decade Ago

special assessmentImagine that your plumber, your lawyer or a contractor did some work for you and didn’t bill you for more than a decade. Would you pay the bill? Should you? What about the statute of limitations?

Apparently regulations for billing within a certain period of time don’t apply if you are a municipality trying to collect money — at least that’s what officials in the town of Princeton are telling residents.

More than 100 property owners in Princeton recently received proposed sanitary sewer improvement assessment notices for work that was done all the way back in 2004 and 2005.

The properties that were part of the sewer improvement project are on Harris Road, Hillside Road, Loomis Court, Oakland Street, Cuyler Road and Walnut Lane.

Each property’s sewer lateral was surveyed with a camera, and many homeowners’ sewer laterals were replaced. But someone messed up, and the bills for the inspections and sewer lateral replacements were never sent out.

Now the town wants the 102 property owners affected by the oversight to cough up anywhere between $50 and more than $1,000 for the work done on the properties back in 2004 and 2005.

The charges for replacing a sewer lateral vary from property to property because the fee is based on the length of the sewer lateral. All of the property owners are now being charged for the video inspection, even if their laterals did not need replacing.

Princeton Township borrowed about $350,000 for the project back in 2004.

Several homeowners bought their homes years after the project was completed, and they are still expected to pay the fees. When a title search was done, their title companies did not find any outstanding  fees or liens.

About a dozen residents attended a hearing on the proposed assessments at the town’s board of improvement assessors Wednesday night. Others wanted to attend but received the proposed assessment notices near the start if August and had already made vacation plans, so they could not attend.

Town officials acknowledged that the bills never got out. Some residents questioned how they could be billed later a decade and were told the town lawyer says it is perfectly legal. Others complained that their proposed assessments are wrong in terms of the dollar amount.

The board tentatively approved the proposed assessments, with the provision that officials review the dollar amount billed for the residents who say their bills are wrong based on the cost per foot. The board’s report will go to the Princeton Council, which must act on it and approve the final assessments. Officials say residents will be notified prior to the public meeting.

Oakland Street resident Dale Meade Meade is one of several residents who has expressed concerns about the issue and the town’s record keeping.

“The notice sent in 2004 made residents aware that they would be held responsible for replacement of defective sewer laterals on their property.  However, there was nothing mentioned that we would also be responsible for the costs of video camera inspection of our laterals,” Meade said. “I, along with others, were surprised to suddenly receive a notice from the municipality that we owed money for work done 10 years ago as part of a sewer project, and that part of these charges were for video inspections.”

Krystal Knapp

Krystal Knapp is the founding editor of Planet Princeton. She can be reached via email at editor AT planetprinceton.com. Send all letters to the editor and press releases to that email address.

  • Lifelong Democrat

    You can search for the facebook page for “Highlands United” to see how the citizens of Highlands, NJ petitioned and then voted in non-partisan municipal government last year.

  • Lifelong Democrat

    I believe that in NJ towns changes from/to partisan/non-partisan municipal election structure have most often happened by means of a town-wide voter referendum for change in the form of town government. Some NJ forms of municipal government allow for non-partisan elections and some apparently do not. You can google more info about the options for forms of municipal government in NJ. When Consolidation passed, there was an opportunity to implement a town government form that included non-partisan municipal elections, but as I recall the form of government promoted by the “consolidation commission” included one of the partisan forms of muni govt. Consolidation further entrenched the Democratic/PCDO hold on municipal elections.

  • D14

    As one of those marginalized unaffiliated voters, I completely agree. Remember the brazen ugliness last year? It really must stop. Does anyone know what the process is to go to, at the very least, open primaries for municipal elections?

  • Jim Jenson

    I doubt those who run the PCDO “clubhouse” would favor your idea.
    They control the Dem nominations, therefore they run the town.
    .
    The 60+% of Democratic voters who don’t participate in the PCDO and the 40% of voters who aren’t even registered Dem’s are effectively marginalized by our municipal political process.

  • Lifelong Democrat

    More of council doing whatever with disregard for input by and Impact on town residents. I am a lifelong Democrat and PCDO member but its time for non-partisan elections for municipal offices. The PCDO cool kids pick our council and mayor candidates who ride into office on presidential and statewide Democratic coat-tails. There is no accountability. I’m glad the mayor and council folks worked hard for Obama and other good candidates and I may take that into consideration when voting but we need to be electing municipal representatives based on how they represent us on municipal issues and stop this history of our town reps coasting in on their national party affiliation. That our mayor will now only be exposed to the judgment of her electorate in Presidential election years reflects the blatent attempt to take advantage of Dem coat-tails. Other nearby municipalities have seen the light and its the for Princeton to move to non partisan municipal office elections.

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