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Setting guidelines for sewer operations

One assessment fee for all property owners affected by new sewer construction, and a 30-year payment plan at reduced rates, is being studied by the City Council Sewer Review Advisory Commission as it drafts legislation to regulate the Warwick Sewer Authority.

“It needs to be fair and equitable,” Ed Ladouceur said of legislation being worked on by the commission.

The Ward 5 councilman chairs the commission that continues to maintain a rigorous schedule following council approval earlier this year of $56 million in revenue bonds to upgrade treatment processes and heighten the levee at the wastewater treatment plant and extend sewers to five neighborhoods.

In an interview Friday, Ladouceur said the commission is close to finalizing a draft of enabling legislation for council consideration. Once passed by the council, the legislation will need General Assembly approval to be enacted.

Using legislation drafted by the Warwick Sewer Authority last year as a guide, the commission is compiling a document point-by-point that will serve as the map for sewer operations going forward.

“The driving force behind the whole thing is simple,” said Ladouceur, “It’s to do the right thing.”

But putting a plan together is far from simple.

A key consideration for property owners who gain access to sewers as the authority takes on $33 million in construction projects beginning in 2015 will be the cost of assessments. Under the plan, linear foot assessments would be replaced with one rate for all property owners coming under that phase of construction. The estimated cost of the projects, bringing sewers to an estimated 1,500 property owners, is $33 million.

“You would equally spread it out,” whether the sewers were being installed in Gov. Francis Farms, Bayside, Greenwood or O’Donnell Hill, Ladouceur said. Also, the basic unit assessment would not change, regardless of the size of the property.

Given projections, Ladouceur expects assessments to be in the range of $25,000 to $30,000.

Based on simple division, assessments would be $22,000 if the six sewer projects cost a total of $33 million and 1,500 property owners equally share the cost.

WSA director Janine Burke said yesterday that assessments could be reduced if elements of projects, such as a new Mill Cove bridge on Tidewater Drive, are deemed public works projects.

Even at $25,000 to $30,000, Ladouceur said that cost is comparable to a septic system. He said septic systems could be more costly, especially on small lots and with unsuitable soil conditions. There’s also the likelihood a septic system will fail, he said.

“It’s a misconception that sewers are so much more expensive than septic,” he said.

Lowering and spreading the cost of sewers have been prime objectives of the commission. The commission has had discussions with William Sequino, director of the Clean Water Finance Agency that would underwrite the bonds at a reduced rate to the sewer authority. Just last week, Burke said, the authority was able to borrow $7 million, which it will use to start treatment plant upgrades, at a rate of 2.7 percent for 20 years.

Ladouceur said Sequino is exploring the feasibility of extending the current 20-year payment plan to 30 years.

“We need to bring relief to people right now,” he said of the extended payment period aimed at reducing annual payments.

Regardless of whether that is possible, going forward Ladouceur wants interest rates applied to property owner assessment payments to be no more than 1.25 percent more than what the authority is paying to borrow the money. At current rates, this would put the interest paid by the property owner under 5 percent.

Going forward, Ladouceur is focused on containing operational costs while gaining the environmental and health safeguards sewers provide. He would like to see the elimination of cesspools.

“I think cesspools are the way of third world nations,” he said. “They don’t do anything but give you a big hole in the ground.”

Presently, properties with cesspools and capable of tying into sewers are required to link to the sewer when they are sold. If sewers are not available, the new owner must then install a septic system.

“They should have to connect or pay a connect-capable fee,” Ladouceur said of those with cesspools.

Ladouceur finds it hard to believe people who claim their septic systems work well yet they haven’t had to do anything to them in years. He favors a required maintenance program of those with septic systems with periodic inspections to ensure they are not allowing pollutants to seep into rivers and ponds and the bay.

But what he is also promoting is for homeowners with access to sewers to tie into the system and start sharing in operational costs.

“We can’t pay for it with 50 percent of the people tied in,” he said. “The end result is that you have to generate enough revenue to support the infrastructure.”

Connect-capable fees designed to promote sewer tie-ins have been suggested in the past, but never gained City Council approval. Whether that will be the case again remains to be seen. If a fee is proposed this time, it will be at the suggestion of a commission with two council members – Joseph Gallucci (D-Ward 8) is the commission co-chair – and not coming from the sewer authority.

Ladouceur is also looking for more accountability from the sewer authority. He would like to have the authority report quarterly to the council. He would expect to hear construction updates and issues coming before the authority.

So far what is coming out of the review commission is a far cry from suggestions over the last three years ranging from the dissolution of the sewer authority to greater control from the mayor and council.

“The answer,” Ladouceur said, “is not to throw everything out, but to give them [the authority] the tools to do a better job.”

As for the future, Ladouceur said the work of the commission is far from over.

“This will continue to be a work in progress. We have come a very long way in the last seven months and we are determined to do what is fair and equitable for all the citizens in the city of Warwick,” he said.


Comments
11 comments on this item

Am I reading this right? You are going to ask me to pay 22K to get sewers in my neighborhood, you will loan me the money for 20-30 years and I will pay interest on that money when everyone else in the city paid a one time assessment which ranged between 2000-4000 depending on their lot size. Is that interest amortized like a mortgage so I am paying nothing but interest for the first 10 years? Is this the best you got???? and your rational is that it would cost me 20 to 30K for a septic system. You forgot to mention that in addition to this fee I will be paying a sewer tax every quarter as well, which will rise each year because this project was underestimated, or will have "unforeseen" problems and delays . So I am better off with a septic system in the long run when mine fails...so now you have 1499 people. And this last line kills me "we are determined to do what is fair and equitable for all the citizens in the city of Warwick." How is this fair to the 1500 of us who will be paying the full cost of this project? Ward 5 Resident

I paid 9800. 5yrs. ago. where did you come up with 2000-4000?

Ok so I did some research on this....22k at 4% for 30 years will cost about 105.per month and the total cost of the loan will be 37,811.29. THAT IS 15,811.29 in interest alone!!! Now the current rate for sewer is $84 per linear foot. So if your frontage on your property is more than 250 feet than you will be making out...but for the rest of us we are being raped. I have 50 feet frontage. Mr. Ladouceur lives in an upscale condo in Warwick Neck....His condo is already hooked up to sewers and one of 2 things happened either he paid 84 per linear foot or the builder of the condo did and he moved in. Mr. Ladouceur I promise you that the 1500 household that this effects will rise, organize and file a class action suit against the City of Warwick if this passes or any other offer that is on fair. It is NOT our fault that the Sewer Authority took so long to get these projects done, miss managed their monies but you will not pass this done on 1500 households. I am all for clean water, but not at a cost of 37.8K there are more than 1500 household that enjoy our bay.

KevinC....I took it from what my mom and Sister had paid when sewers were first brought into Warwick. Not an accurate figure I apologize I was fuming when I first read this and hadn't looked up the cost. 9800 is still a far cry from 22k and what is the frontage on your property...mine is 50 feet x 84....I should be paying 4200 not 22k.

Someone seems a little grumpy... The only important thing here is we are finally getting sewers. This is a wonderful thing for everyone. People tend to get worked up over such trivial issues, just relax. Looks like Mr. Ladouceur is going to keep his promise to us Warwick neck residents and get us sewers. Thank you I cant wait!

connor you must have a frontage of more than 250 feet or you are married to Ladouceur.... and yes I get a little grumpy when someone tells me I need to pay out 22k to run a pipe in front of my house. Most of the people in my neighborhood don't have that kind of frontage. I am a single mom on a limited income....my house only cost me 65K. I don't have that kind of money nor should I have to pay it when everyone else paid by the foot. 4000 is a far cry from 22k.

Maggie, I am not married or know Mr Ladouceur. I met him once when he was campaigning and one of his promises to the Warwick Neck people was to make sure we get much needed sewers. I have appox 220 feet of frontage. I do apologize! I forget situations like yours sometimes. I understand where you are coming from and from a son who was raised by a single mom, Thank you.

Connor Thank you, I am not the only one in my neighborhood that is in this position and I am sure I am not the only one in the City either. It gets harder and harder to live in this City and in this State....At some point enough is enough and this is the straw that is breaking my back. If this goes through my life will get even harder to make ends meet or I need to sell and leave the home that I love and worked the last 14 years to make a home. There is a certain expectation when you own a large property you pay higher price for the property, higher taxes and you have a higher resale value. I bought what I could afford and 14 years ago they promised sewers and I took into consideration that I would have to pay by the linear foot based a 50ft. The price 14 years ago was a lot less than 84. But I knew at some point it would cost me about 4500-5000 to run the pipe and get hooked up. Not 22K plus.

How will the City have surplus, if people don't pay a 30 year loan? or higher rates for sewer and water fee, customer rates, This is the way the city shows a surplus, that is not liquid. It is money owed to the city. Councilman Ladouceur is the one who pushed this agenda and should pay for it during this election season, along with the only 6 councilors.

To avoid expensive repairs on your home and clean up the environment at the same time, use the natural cleaners for septic system clogging, plumbing and water supply maintenance like the Miller Plante Inc all-natural Advanced Formula Septic-Helper 2000 and Enza Drain Line. Inquire about the new Septic Line Protection plan.

In 2011 the EPA Total Maximum Load of Nitrates (TMDL) that states and counties must clean up their water supplies by 2017. It mandates new inspections on all septic systems, water wells and with funding, local waterways. A failed inspection would include a slow drain in your leach field, low septic tank bacteria levels or elevated Nitrate levels in your Water Well or local Water Supplies; could require replacement of your entire system for $10K to $100K+ or connect to the city sewer system for $5K to $50K. The new inspections are failing 12% of systems each year and 82% of those older than 1977.

22,000K for years...decades...of mistakes and outright corruption by the WSA. This is real money for some of us Ed. And if you plan on moving in the next ten years, the 20-30 year loan is useless. Better off taking a home equity loan. Nice thing to have to do knowing you will be selling. So that's 22,000-30,000 in equity out of the window. You people suck bigtime.

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