SUSSEX - Pastor Wade Abbott was both surprised and upset when he recently received a $250 water bill from Sussex Borough. The bill was for a house on the property of First Baptist Church of Sussex where water hasn’t been used for at least 15 years, he said. Problem is, the house, which is located between the church and the parsonage, still has an active water connection. Beginning in the first quarter of 2009, Sussex Borough has begun charging a minimum water use fee of $250 for any businesses or residences that use zero to 10,000 gallons of water each quarter. That policy now applies to customers such as First Baptist Church even if they aren’t actually using any water, as long as their connections remain on, said Borough Clerk Catherine Gleason. Pastor Abbott complained about his bill to the Borough Council during its April 21 meeting. The council began enforcing the minimum water use fee for the past quarter to ensure that all of its water customers contribute toward the upkeep of the town’s water system, said Mayor Christian Parrott. “Everybody who is hooked up to it (the water system) has to pay their fair share,” said Parrott. Any customers who haven’t been using water but decide to at some point “wouldn’t have paid their fair share,” he added. Toward the end of the council’s discussion on the issue, Sussex Borough Attorney John Ursin suggested that Pastor Abbott call him to discuss the charges. When reached by phone by The Advertiser-News on April 28, Pastor Abbott said he was able to resolve the issue with Sussex Borough but he declined to offer any details of the settlement that was reached. Others affected Gleason said there were 15 water customers who are affected by the recently-enforced billing policy. She said that seven had contacted the municipality to complain. Sussex Borough’s minimum water use fee isn’t unique in Sussex County. For instance, Franklin Borough charges $47 per quarter for zero to 5,000 gallons of water used each quarter, according to a municipal employee who didn’t want to be identified. Meanwhile, the Hardyston Township Municipal Utilities Authority charges residents of the Indian Fields and Crystal Springs developments $67.50 as a flat quarterly rate for water usage, according to Gail Hensal, Billing Clerk for the utility. The utility will likely shift to a minimum water use fee once it has finished installing water meters in each of the 360 Indian Fields residences and 945 Crystal Springs homes by early fall, said Hensal. She said she wasn’t sure what the utility might charge for minimum water use once the meters have been installed. One option for First Baptist Church and other customers who aren’t using water is to have their water systems disconnected. But they’d have to pay a plumber to do the work. Plus, if they ever decide to re-establish water service, the borough would charge a minimum re-connection fee of $7,800, said Gleason. Toward the end of the council’s discussion on the issue, Sussex Borough Attorney John Ursin suggested that Pastor Abbott call him to discuss the charges. When reached by phone by The Advertiser-News on April 28, Pastor Abbott said he was able to resolve the issue with Sussex Borough but he declined to offer any details of the settlement that was reached.