Ward 5 Councilman Ed Ladouceur is arguing that it is “only fair” that the city pay for the cost of repaving roads when sewers are brought to a neighborhood, not the homeowners and businesses that will gain sewers.
Should that be adopted as policy, and Ladouceur hasn’t established whether that would take City Council or state legislative action, it could reduce individual sewer assessment costs by an estimated 20 percent and possibly more. With residents of the Governor Francis III project, which is scheduled to start this fall, facing assessments of upwards of $18,000, Ladouceur’s proposal could mean savings of $3,600 for 270 property owners.
While the proposal has the backing of Warwick Sewer Authority member Gary Marino, who voiced his support at a recent hearing on the Governor Francis Farm project, it doesn’t sit well with Mayor Scott Avedisian. In an email he favored keeping the cost of road repaving as part of the overall expense of sewers that, under a proposed change in WSA regulations, are to be equally shared by those getting the sewers.
The authority is expected to abandon its current practice of linear foot assessments based on the length of sewer lines installed next to a property for a per unit assessment arrived by dividing the cost of a project by the number of property owners served.
Avedisian wrote: “I do not favor changing the way that roads get repaved as that sets up a totally inequitable system from the way that other neighborhoods have been treated.”
Ladouceur argues neighborhood residents are not the only ones to benefit from improved roads in the wake of a sewer project, and their cost should be borne by the city. Of particular concern are Ward 5 residents who have been promised sewers for 20 years. Because sewers were always on the horizon, the city has refrained from repaving roads in Highland Beach, Riverview and Longmeadow. Many homes in those neighborhoods have cesspools and, because they are within 200 feet of the bay, must tie into sewers or build approved septic systems.
Ladouceur made the plight of Ward 5 homeowners a tenant of his election campaign. After winning the election in 2012, Ladouceur founded the Warwick City Council Sewer Review Commission. After more than a year of hearings, he gained bonding approval for expansion of sewers and state enabling legislation to revise policies and regulations including the means of assessment.
“Those people are being beat up already,” Ladouceur said of homeowners within what has become the Bayside sewer project. Citing Tidewater Drive and the streets running off it, he said the roads are “a mess” and have been left that way because sewers are planned.
In the case of the Bayside project, because of archeological features pre-dating colonial times, the authority will use a system of directional drills, in place of open excavations, to install sewers. That system will use a series of pits rather than an open trench down the middle or the side of the road.
Yet, Ladouceur notes, the people of Bayside are going to be asked to pay for the repaving of roads from curb to curb.
“This is the most egregious thing,” he said. “What has to be addressed is the cost of roads.”
Reminded that as part of its gas service replacement program National Grid splits the cost of road repaving with the city, Ladouceur said that is a different circumstance and he feels the city should pay the full cost of repaving streets impacted by sewer projects.
Peter Ginaitt, chair of the sewer authority, favors the coordination of utility projects so sewer, water and gas utility work is done at one time and the cost of repaving roads is shared. As for whether the city should pick up the full costs or a portion of the expense of repaving he said, “I think we should be partnering with the city…it should go hand-in-hand.”
He noted that road repaving is often the largest component of a sewer project. “It’s not small money,” he said.
As for the adoption of new rules and regulations that was to have occurred within a year of passage of enabling legislation, the authority will consider those regulations as drafted by its counsel and staff at its Aug. 24 meeting. A subcommittee comprised of authority member Marino and Tina Moretti are reviewing those proposed regulations and will offer their suggestions.
Also, since the bids for Governor Francis III will be opened on Aug. 16, the authority staff is hopeful of having a recommended contractor for authority consideration on the 24th.