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Mandatory connections axed from sewer bill
LADOUCEUR

Ward 5 Councilman Ed Ladouceur did something out of character Monday night. He backed away from what he believes is preferable, so that the rest of what he says is needed to bring accountability to the Warwick Sewer Authority will gain General Assembly approval.

Almost since Ladouceur took on setting things right at the authority and extending sewers to neighborhoods promised sewers for years without action, he has argued to be financially sustainable, people must tie into the system once it is built. It is those usage fees that pay for operation of the system and the more people connected, the less it’s going to cost for everyone.

The system currently has 21,000 customers. Another 2,700 have access to the system, but haven’t connected.

But on Monday, Ladouceur amended the proposed enabling legislation the Council Sewer Review Commission had worked on at numerous meetings. He struck out provisions that would have made connections mandatory and applied fees to those refusing to tie in.

Will the package of revisions have a better chance of gaining legislative approval without mandatory connections?

That’s hard to say, but, no doubt mandatory connections have long been a hot button and without them much of the wind is gone from the sails of the group hammering at the authority.

But even with that measure removed, there was council opposition to the enabling legislation. Shortly before midnight and after the public was given the opportunity to comment, the vote was 5-2 to approve the resolution. Ward 5 Councilman Joseph Solomon and Ward 9 Councilman Steve Merolla cast opposing votes. Joseph Gallucci (D-Ward 8) and Charles Donovan (D-Ward 7) were not present.

Merolla called the sewer authority “an albatross around everyone’s neck.” He charged the authority of saying it would do one thing only to do another; that it’s not managed properly and that septic systems are less expensive and serve to recharge the ground water.

He also jumped on costs, claiming that septic systems are less costly to build and maintain than sewers. Solomon focused on assessments, wanting to know what expenses the homeowner would face.

Support of the legislation come from homeowners, realtors and environmentalists. Opposition came from homeowners who focused on costs.

Citing the 500 who signed petitions in opposition to paying for sewers other than their own, resident Roger Durand said, “The people have been listened to.” He went on to say, “We still don’t know whose paying for the new sewers.”

Gene Nadeau argued that no one should be forced to change from either a cesspool or septic system if they don’t have problems.

And favoring the enabling legislation, Jane Austin, a former member of the review commission, called sewers a “basic public service.”

Stephanie VanPatten of Riverview said her neighbors have been promised for the last 20 years and that most of them would connect when they are finally built. While supportive of the legislation, Topher Hamblett of Save the Bay said without mandatory connections, both the environment and those on the system who will bear all the costs will suffer.

Ladouceur highlighted provisions of the measure, emphasizing that with quarterly appearances before the council there is improved oversight. He also talked of fixing interest costs on assessments at 1.25 percent more than the rate the authority borrows the money at. He said the legislation would enable the authority to develop hardship programs for those who have difficulty paying costs. Ladouceur spoke of the hours that went into commission hearings and the work the group did to explore alternatives. Sewers, he said, are the best solution for much of the city.

“This isn’t something that happened overnight,” he said. “The most important job we need to do is to make the Warwick Sewer Authority a better vendor.”

Earlier this year the review commission proposed $56 million in sewer bonds. Of the total, $23 million is to be used to heighten the levee to protect the wastewater treatment plant from Pawtuxet River flooding, and for plant upgrades to meet requirements to reduce the discharge of phosphorous and nitrogen. The remaining bond funds, which also gained council approval, will be used to extend sewers to six neighborhoods.

Although stripping mandatory connections from the legislation was not his preference, Ladouceur said he thought much of what the authority needs to accomplish could be done through its rules and regulations. And in case the council had any concerns, he added, they and the mayor will have the final authority.

The measure now goes to the General Assembly.


Comments
9 comments on this item

Fast Eddie should have known his game plan would never prevail. I like other users of the WSA know this is one agency out of control. Let's not forget Scottie's hands are all over this inept agency

The Ward 5 residents quoted in this article have to realize nobody help pay my sewer assessment it is not fair I pay for theirs. Eddie says everyone in Ward 5 want sewers so let them pay for them.

Reality, I understand the mentality of why you won't want to share in the cost, however most of the City that currently has sewer did have help in paying. There was funding that offset your costs considerably. And timing of when they were but in also offset the cost of what the remaining part of the City will pay. To state that Ward 5 or any other ward should pay the entire cost when there is no funding left for us is also UNFAIR. Many of Ward 5 residents have had to spend money on new septic systems because sewers were not delivered in a timely manner. So should they have to pay twice??? Approx. 45% of the City is still does not have sewers, not just Ward 5. The six neighborhoods that are currently looking at getting sewers does not complete the sewer installation for the entire City. There still will be a large number of people who will have to deal with this same issue in the years to come at an even higher cost of installation. Take note City residents who don't live in one of these 6 neighborhoods and are without sewer...this nightmare will eventually be coming true in your neighborhoods too.

Maggie......we all have been in your situation and we all had to pay our assessments without others helping.......because the cost is gone up so high isn't our fault but rather the inept Avedisian and WSA......fast eddie says everyone wants sewers so if you want them than pay for them.

I live in Ward 5 and don't need sewers urgently, but am glad this passed and will definitely connect when sewers become available (which will not be for years in any event, there is still a long way to go before that). I have lived in Warwick all of my life, this is the right collective answer for municipal infrastructure, and I will do my part. It is not cheap but nothing about owning a house is cheap. While I would have liked to see mandatory tie-in, I am OK with that not being a part of this now.

When the first sewers were installed the costs should have been spread across the entire city and it should have continued through until the last sewer line was run. Sewers are a public service and the city should have understood that the lucky neighborhoods that connected early were going to be paying a lot less than the later neighborhoods. But they didn't, and for those of us in Buttonwoods that payed higher rates than everyone before us, we don't want to pay for anybody else's sewers, we're broke. And for myself and all my neighbors that tied in following the mayor's letter saying there would be a connect capable fee for those that choose to not tie in, well once again the majority of people that did the right thing are getting screwed by the city because a vocal minority are making a stink.

I am not sure what "Reality" some of the posters on this site are in, but the evidence is clear. The 2-1 majority that showed up for Monday's council meeting in support of sewers spoke louder that the "vocal minority" ever could. Yet even in clear defeat, they come to the Beacon to rant and rave while still not coming up with a single intelligent idea of their own on how to fix the problem. I couldn't be prouder of the leadership shown by the Warwick City Council for passing this resolution, finally we have some politicians with foresight and guts to make the difficult decisions.

Thanks Eddie for your previous blog.......maybe someday you'll live in reality.........what happened at the city council was an overwhelming defeat for you and your tree hugger zealots.

@/Reality. Per your previous post, people really don't know what is going on

Yet again "Reality" makes a fool of himself. "It must be Ed himself" because that poster doesn't agree with me, and in my "Reality" everyone agree's with me. NEWSFLASH - you may have convinced a few people who don't know any better, but the people that care about the City, that care about the environment, and don't want to pass this problem on to yet another generation have and will continue to prevail. Rant and rave all you want, sewers are coming and there is nothing you can do to stop them.

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