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Equal sewer assessments ‘unjust,’ homeowner tells council review commission

While many officials feel it is only fair that property owners share in the cost of sewers equally rather than paying on the basis of the length of pipe along a property line, Marjorie Murphy of Highland Beach said on Tuesday that such a policy would “push me out of my house.”

Murphy stopped by the Warwick Beacon after addressing the Council Sewer Review Commission earlier that morning to tell her story and put in a plea that the Sewer Authority consider property value and ability to pay when establishing sewer assessments. Also, she suggested the cost of new sewers be shared by all of the city’s 35,000 homeowners.

According to estimates, it is going to cost $33 million to bring sewers to six neighborhoods, including Murphy’s, which would be part of the Bayside projects. Based on the projection, 1,500 property owners would equally share in the cost of the projects; everyone would be faced with a $22,000 assessment.

Murphy, whose home is on a 50-by-80 lot, said she was told about 15 years ago that she would get sewers in three to four years and that, based on her frontage, she could expect to pay a $4,000 assessment. She said she was told there were loan programs and that, because of her low income, there would be other forms of relief.

In her statement to the commission, Murphy said, “anyone who has lived in Warwick their whole lives knows that when sewers come into your neighborhood, you pay by the foot. Now you are telling the remaining 45 percent of us [the percentage of Warwick homes without access to sewers] that we will now split the cost evenly, pay a much higher rate than the rest of the city and that there are no more grants to help subsidize these costs.”

Murphy is not opposed to bringing sewers to the neighborhood. She has a cesspool now and questions whether she even has sufficient property for a septic system.

An argument made by Ward 5 Councilman Ed Ladouceur, who chairs the review commission, is that septic systems can cost as much as a sewer assessment yet have a limited life. Ladouceur said yesterday the commission, which he hopes will have its recommendations ready for council consideration on March 17, is “exploring lots of options.” But, he also said, “At the end of the day, you’ve got to pay the bill.” As for Murphy’s situation, he felt she should be happy to know sewers will be coming to her neighborhood. Noting the size of her house lot, he said, you can’t put a septic system on that lot and if the cesspools are being phased out, what are you going to do? The value of the property is going to plummet.“I can smell it [sewage] when it rains,” Murphy said of the neighborhood. “My problem is the cost and having to divvy it up that way. $22,000 is a huge hit for someone like me. I will have to walk away [from her house] and I don’t want to.”

The City Council has approved $33 million in revenue bonds for the Sewer Authority to extend sewers to Highland Beach, Riverview and Longmeadow [the Bayside projects], as well as the next phase of sewers to Governor Francis Farms, Greenwood and the O’Donnell Hill neighborhood. The authority expects to borrow the funds from Clean Water Finance at reduced interest rates, passing those savings on to homeowners paying assessments.

As part of its deliberations on enabling legislation, which would require passage by the council and General Assembly, the authority is not only considering equal assessments, but also extending the payment of assessments to 30 years – it’s currently 20 – and limiting interest to 1.25 percent more than the borrowing cost. Ladouceur said the assessment rate would be set as part of the authority’s rules and regulations, at which time there would be a public hearing. He doesn’t believe there would be a public hearing on the enabling legislation.

Murphy considered low interest rates into her calculations and estimated by the time she is 81 years old, she will have paid $37,000. She put her quarterly assessment cost at $315.

Murphy argues that people with larger and higher appraised properties can afford to pay more.

“To impose a blanket fee, which is significantly higher than previous projects, to 1,500 of us in this phase of installation based on nothing other than being a homeowner in need of sewers is unjust,” she told the commission.

22 comments on this item

As for Murphy’s situation, he felt she should be happy to know sewers will be coming to her neighborhood. WOW how insensitive she should be happy she will have to pay 22k and if she can't afford to pay she will have to leave her home? Wonder how many others are in the same boat? 45%of the City not having sewers is a lot of people. I am sure there will be many in the same position. So is it the Sewer Authorities position that those whose budgets can't afford another expense they have to pay up or leave????? HMMMMMMM

Let's not forget what Eddie Ladoceur said.....at the end of the day you have to pay.....let's not forget that on election day and tell Eddie he has to go. Fast Eddie has no plan for people to pay for these sewers and the answer isn't that the citizens of Warwick pay for the mismanagement of the WSA. Shouldn't Eddie figured out how to make these sewers affordable before he has the city council pass the $33 million bond issue ?

Good to know my Councilman has my back! I have done some other research on this, according to DEM which I called I am able to put in a septic system. They work with contractors and the permitting processes for people like me with small lots. Additionally I was also told that septic systems run from 4000-10000 on average mine would probably be higher but it still wouldn't be 22k and can last a life time if properly maintained. So there are other alternatives that Councilman Ladoceur doesn't not want you to know because he needs all 1500 of us to connect in order for HIS plan to work. What you should also know is that Rep Ferri has submitted legislation bill 7724 mandating hook up if sew is available. So if you are unsewered and sewers come into your neighborhood, not only will the Sew Authority bill you an exorbitant amount, but you will NOW be MANDATED to hook up to it. Because at the end of the day they got you by the ____. I don't know about you but 315 is half of my quarterly tax payment, and as much as I complain about it....I know that if I call fire, police, or ambulance...they will show up at my house. It picks up my trash weekly, plows my street and provides education to my children. A 50 ft. pipe is a 50ft pipe...not usage. Somebody needs to figure out a better way to pay this!

oh and most importantly, thank you John Howell for taking the time to meet with me and presenting another side of this story!

As for the frontage issue...paying by the foot....two people could have the exact same lot size but different frontage lengths, making one neighbor pay substantially higher for the same service just because the frontage is longer. The value of the house has nothing to do with this. You can't make people with 'more house' pay more than smaller homes. They will pay more when they hook up because the larger home will use more water.

As for dividing the whole project by the number of homes, makes perfect sense. BUT IT IS WAY TOO EXPENSIVE. $22,000 is a lot of money.

THIS IS ALL BECAUSE THE WSA WAS SO MISMANGED FOR SO MANY YEARS BY CORRUPT POLITICAL CRONIES. Thank every past mayor since the 70's for failing on this issue.

Where is the outrage??? How dare Ward 5 Councilman ed ladouceur make a comment like “At the end of the day, you’ve got to pay the bill.” This man does not know what his job is and who it is that provides him with the “power” that he has…. I don’t care if you are for or against the sewer plan the Ward % Councilman should no longer have the privilege to serve the people of Warwick and take his self-serving you know what back to the private sector…

And let’s not forget Rep. ferri and legislation bill 7724, he know this would cause people to lose their homes in his very own neighborhood. This is his way of gentrifying his neighborhood if not why did he not find ways to help his neighbors he knew would be forced out of their homes. So People of Warwick let’s also not forget Rep. ferri next election and the hand he had in people from Warwick losing their homes…. Shame on him to…

OUTRAGE -- > STOP re -electing these fools!

The mismanagement of the WSA still is not being considered and now the board is going to manage new projects spending tens of millions of dollars. Only in government do we do things like this.

This is like the new RI Healthcare exchange. They created it with federal funds that will pay all costs for a few years. However after the funds expire they don't have a plan to pay for it. Currently it is costing $24 million a year to run it. BRILLIANT! Where will they get the money?

Same with sewers, pass new bond spending of $60 million and let the same people who have total screwed up past projects run the new projects.

The proposal to divide the total cost of the sewer project by the number of homes is also crazy. Why not then do the same thing for property taxes? Just divide the total taxes by each home. If your home is worth a million dollars or $100 grand pay the same thing. Fair?

But for some reason its now fair to assess sewer construction projects this way?

A better plan would be to use the value of each property to determine the assessment rate. The people with a more valuable piece of property, pay more. The person with the same value home as a neighbor in a less valued neighborhood, but twice as much pipe in front of their house pay the same assessment.

The guy with the million dollar home in a high valued neighborhood with less frontage, pays more. FAIR.

The other thing to look at is the rise in home value, So if a homeowner with 600k property value goes up 100k due to sewer and it cost him 22k he makes out...if a homeowner with 100k property goes up to 110k he loses 12K. That sounds fair. The rich get richer and the poor....well who needs the poor anyway....(sarcasm)

"At the end of the day, you’ve got to pay the bill." Why don't you pay the bill???? What and empty suit! Just what this City needs another empty suit with a big mouth! Any way you look at this 33 million is an outrages amount of money to place on any homeowner but to divide it equally is ridiculous. The only people who win are those who can afford to pay more and those who can't will ultimately be forced from their homes. First and foremost the amount is excessive and needs to be rethought out, and once it is if you are going to change how assessments take place from this point forward you need to do it by property value not cost of project. Mr Ladouceur has missed a big piece to the puzzle. Getting sewers to Warwick Neck after years and years is no great feat...they were eventually coming anyway. However getting sewers to residents at an affordable price, finding funding alternatives and at least being publicly sympathetic to people like Ms. Murphy is what makes good elected official. Doing an half ass job and being smug about it is what makes you a politician. Seems to me you have already forgotten who you represent most of us are the working class just making ends meet. We certainly won't forget you on election day! You will be the guy who sold us out to the sew authority at any cost.

So Margie Murphy ,you that every home owner in Warwick should pay these new accessment bills for those who connect now ? I was forced to connect to the sewer 9 1/2 years ago when I purchased my home. We have our bill way down now and you want us to continue to pay what we still owe PLUS part of your fee? I don't think so.. I don't remember what the total price was but it was ridiculously high for the times of 2005.Same as 22.000 is ridiculously high for 2014. If you go back many many many years ago, Warwick had $12,000,000 to take care of the sewers in our city. As usual, they squandered the money. Until the self serving goomba's are thrown out on their you know what's, (Beacon won't let me swear) they'll keep going until they suck the life and love out of all of us in this once great little city.

No adogsmom I don't want you to pay my bill, I want to be assessed fairly. I didn't state that it should be paid by everyone the contents was that they miss managed the money and now only 1500 of us are going to have to foot the entire cost. Whereas, many city residents and I don't know if you fell into this or not where subsidize by grants so you didn't pay the full cost to begin with. I broke the figure of 33m out by 35500 residents not including business or the 16 hotels (which do nothing but flush toilets and shower all day long) or the so called non profits including the City of Warwick, State of RI who are exempt from assessment and use sewers. It ended up working out just for residents only a little over 900 per household over 20 years would be 49.00 Which if you included what our fair share should be and business and non profits it would be a lot less.

$22000 over 30 years at 1.25% interest equals only $74/mo. Less than most peoples cable bill.

But $22000 is VERY HIGH for an assessment, it should be about half that.

Yet the residents of this city are still missing the most important points of the discussion.


2. With few exception, the city council members are not very intelligent people and continue to give us, (the taxpayer) numerous examples to substantiate this claim. eg. Lack of pension reform, car taxes, sewer assessments, dpw waste and abuse, sick pay buy back bonus', secret deals with school superintendants, etc.... the list goes on and on

3. We continue to pay the sewer contractors for work that has not been performed, or under performed, services that have not been rendered such as compaction,and "extras" that were not included in the flat price fee of the bid, included, but not limited to commoditiy excalation fees when the contracts do not contain commodity excalation clauses. Read the contracts!!! My God, contract law 101.

4. The WSA has been proven to be corrupt and incompetent. Last year the city council unanimously voted to disband them. A couple of months ago they voted 7 - 2 to support the 60 million dollar bond. What miralce of intellect took place to have a 180 degree shift in position?

5. As far as Rep. Ferri is concerned? Have any of you ever seen him at a council meeting?? Try calling him? No answer, no answer, no answer. Even his e-mail is auto generated and he doesnt answer or return messages. Not to mention the fact that he is a DOPE. NOT SMART, NOT ENGAGED, NOT IN TUNE WITH HIS PEOPLE. YET HE IS CONSTANTLY RE-ELECTED.

6. And here's the big one Johnny!! Why isnt there anyone from the construction industry on the WSA?? Why dont we have a licensed superintendent? Why no geo technical engineers on the committee? Why is the WSA comprised of life time accomplished political hacks??

Answer - to continue to support the special interests of the political hacks.

Someday, may years from now, people will start to wake up to see how they have been robbed for so many years. Unfortunately, by that thime we will already have passed the point of no return, your kids will have moved away, your corrupt politicians will be no where to be found, and the problems will be compounded. In November, vote against every incumbent in the city and state. EVERY ONE !!

Taxdpayer the 1.25 is not the interest rate they are charging us....they want to charge us 1.25 over what they borrow it at. Ladouceur had stated(in previous article)that we will pay under 5% so I ran the numbers at 4%. It will likely be 4.99% if he say under 5%. The other interesting thing is that the work hasn't even gone out to bid yet so there 33M could be what they hope it will cost and not actual. Any way you look at it, it will be more than 315. per quarter. That was a low ball estimate.

I would like to thank Council Man Ladouceur for supporting what the MAJORITY of the residents of Ward 5 want...finally someone who has the guts to stick up to the negative (because of course they are the LOUDEST) and support what the MAJORITY of the people in his ward have asked for and want. Thank you Mr. Ladouceur for doing your research and standing up for the people on an issue that should have been completed YEARS ago and for much cheaper I might add. I am proud of our Council Man and happy that we finally elected someone who will stand up for us, continue to take the heat and fight for what is right.

As you can tell, the previous blogger is a Eddie supporter. The majority of his ward don't want sewers and they can't afford them. All knowing Eddie won't accept this fact but let's boot him out on election day.

how come eddie picture is not on the council web site yet. we are into march. evebody go look. thank-you.

Maggie, the city should have been charging you and every other resident equally all along. They didn't and I paid off my loan because the 6+% being charged in 2009 was more than I was going to make in stocks. (Not really but I didn't know the market had bottomed). The people that were connected early in the process clearly benefited at our expense.

Fenceman: The reason the taxpayers do not "ENGAGE" as you put it, is that the taxpayer is either A) Silenced; B) The meeting is then moved to a closed door session; or C) The taxpayer making a stink is labeled as a Wingnut Zealot for attempting to upset the apple cart! Case in point: That guy (sorry his name currently eludes me) who made a big thing about the automobile excise levies a few years ago, and got involved in a couple of other issues,and wrote MANY letter to the editor, including the Warwick Beacon, only to be mocked and shamed into moving out of state! So there you have it, sir. I believe the voters would do best to make their voices heard WITH THEIR VOTE, anonymously, without harassment, and get these inept clowns out of office once and for all!

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