A proposed set of New London water and sewer rate increases has been shot down by a committee of the City Council.
John Maynard and Marie Friess-McSparran, the present members of the Administration Committee, both voted against sending the ordinance on the rates to the full council. Maynard, who chairs the committee, says the action will result in the current rates remaining in place. He was critical of the process involved in setting the rate, saying neither the councilors nor the Water and Water Pollution Control Authority has received adequate information on the matter.
“If we get the information we need, it can be looked at down the road,” said Maynard. “But until we get a forensic audit, we can’t do that.”
Let Patch save you time. Get great local stories like this delivered right to your inbox or smartphone every day with our free newsletter. Simple, fast sign-up here.
The proposed rates would have increased the charge for every 1,000 cubic feet of metered water service within city limits in a three month period from $17.71 to $19.48. It also would have increased the cost for this same service from $17.83 to $19.61 for metered connections outside the city limits. Sewer charges for New London and Waterford customers would go from $25 per 1,000 gallons to $31.25.
Other major changes would include:
- Increasing the residential connection fee for structures not previously receiving water from the city from the product of residential units and $2,727 to the product of residential units and $3,049.
- Increasing the fee structure of non-residential connection buildings not previously receiving water from the city. These costs are based on the size of the meter and would range from $3,409 for five-eighths of an inch (formerly $2,727) to $115,587 for 10 inches or more (formerly $92,469).
- The original connection fee for existing buildings was not less than $200 and not more than $350, although the fee would be the actual cost less $350 if the expense of providing the service was greater than $700. The revision stated that the fee should not be less than $1,000 and not more than the actual cost of providing each connection.
- Increasing the charge for each public fire service connection in Waterford from $53.67 to $98.34.
- Increasing the fee for temporary use of water by contractors where the use of a meter is not practical from $24 to $300 for each day or portion of a day and from $84 to $1,500 for extended use each week.
- Increasing the reactivation expense paid by an offending party for water shutoff due to misrepresentation, misuse, or waste of water from two dollars to $100.
- Increasing the reactivation expense paid by an offending party for water shutoff due to nonpayment from $15 to $100.
Maynard urged residents in New London, Waterford, and East Lyme to contact councilors on the proposed rates, since it affects all three communities. Each municipality uses the wastewater treatment facility located at Fort Trumbull for sewage needs, and East Lyme and New London signed a water sharing agreement last year.
Maynard said he felt neither the council nor the WWPCA has received sufficient information on expenses. He said he considers that money from the WWPCA has been illegally pooled with municipal funds and that $5 million from a capital fund is unaccounted for.
“Do I think there’s been mismanagement of money? Absolutely I do,” said Maynard.
Council President Michael Passero, who attended the meeting but is not a member of the committee, said he would support the ordinance since the 2013 fiscal year budget has been set in part based on the proposal. He said he considered that the WWPCA explained its reasoning for the rate increases, noting that they are about 40 percent cheaper than surrounding areas and have not increased in several years.
“I think principally what it is is poor communication between the city, the , and the Water Authority,” said Passero. “And we need to resolve that, because it’s not healthy.”
Finance Director Jeff Smith said setting the water and sewer budget is a complicated process, but that he considered the reasoning and numbers to be sound.
“I have to trust the Water and Water Pollution Control Authority,” he said. “They’re really looked at this.”
Smith said he would be willing to go over financial information with the councilors, but said raw financial data consists of thousands of pages of information. He said he also considered a financial audit a “waste of money” since the city audits its finances annually.
Maynard disagreed, saying he has received estimates that a forensic audit could be completed for $25,000 to $50,000.
“I do not trust your numbers, and I want a forensic audit,” he said.