Officials in Ridgewood say their neighbors are taking to the media because their case is weak.
The class action suit filed by Wyckoff, Glen Rock and Midland Park in Bergen County's Superior Court seeks $3.3 million in refunds, charging that Ridgewood has "been engaged in sham accounting to artificially inflate the costs of the Water Utility and decrease the expenses of the village."
On Wednesday, officials from Glen Rock, Midland Park and Wyckoff held a press conference where attorney Joseph Fiorenzo again called for the combined 26 percent rate hikes in 2010 and 2011 to be rescinded and $3.3 million refunded to ratepayers.
"Generally, such tactics are used to inflame the situation due to lack of confidence in the legal merits of their case," Ridgewood Village Attorney Matt Rogers replied in a statement sent to media late Friday night.
Ridgewood in its statement did not address the alleged actions spelled out in the lawsuit.
The suit alleges the village has funneled hundreds of thousands of dollars to subsidize its police and fire departments, its engineering department, the municipal attorney, expensive health and pension obligations, among others.
The alleged bilking between 2004-2009 led to an operating loss for the utility, Fiorenzo said, adding that had the books been done properly, the utility would have shown a substantial profit.
"Evidence revealed... that there was no 'loss' to justify the extraordinary water rate increase," Fiorenzo wrote in a statement. "Rather, Ridgewood has been bilking the ratepayers of Wyckoff, Glen Rock and Midland Park by having the ratepayers pay for a substantial portion of the operating expenses of the Village of Ridgewood."
His statements came less than a week after mediation between the parties hit a dead end.
Rogers in his statement said the village would shirk the media spotlight, claiming its preference to continue a "good faith and responsible effort" to keep water prices low for all Ridgewood Water ratepayers.
"On behalf of the Village of Ridgewood and Ridgewood Water, we continue to scrutinize the applicable law and remain confident in our case and the legal process," he wrote.
Officials in the village have publicly maintained they've done nothing wrong and have in the past called the suit "bombastic" but "baseless."
They've been quick to point out Ridgewood Water rates are significantly lower than that of most neighboring utilities and have previously stated the rate hikes were needed to keep the utility financially solvent.
The lawsuit seeks to rescind the dual rate hikes while refunding $1.64 million to Wyckoff, $1.04 million to Glen Rock, and $619,000 to Midland Park.
Sources have said there appears a slim chance the two parties reach a settlement. Once the discovery period concludes, the case is likely to be heard by Judge Menelaos Toskos.