Before coming to the City Council with a recommendation to approve bonding for sewers, Ward 5 Councilman Edgar Ladouceur, who chairs the council’s sewer review commission, wants to hear from the public.
Ladouceur is looking for input, but he also wants to give residents an accurate projection of the costs they would incur with sewers, and what they would be faced without them.
Last night, the council was to have considered a resolution introduced by Ward 8 Councilman Joseph Gallucci calling for approval of a $23 million revenue bond so that the Warwick Sewer Authority could move ahead with plans to bring sewers to the O’Donnell Hill area in Ward 8; complete sewer construction in Governor Francis Farms; and bring sewers to Riverview and Highland Beach in a series of three projects coming under the grouping of Bayside 1, 2 and 3.
“We may modify that,” Ladouceur said of the proposed bond. He can’t say whether it is enough, especially if the sewer authority is to avert a recurrence of the 2010 flood that inundated the wastewater treatment plant that cost in excess of $11 million in repairs.
“It only makes sense to raise that levee before we put more pipe in the ground,” Ladouceur said in an interview Friday.
Flood protection measures are projected to cost $5 million. The authority has applied for a federal grant for the project. The authority is also faced with a Department of Environmental Management (DEM) mandate to upgrade treatment plant operations to reduce the level of phosphorous and nitrates discharged into the Pawtuxet River. That project is estimated to cost $16 million and the authority wants to do the work in concert with elevating the levees. Ladouceur said he is hopeful DEM will give the city an extension on the treatment plant upgrades.
“It makes more sense to extend the sewers to those people who need them,” he said.
But do people who could use sewers know what it is going to cost them?
That’s one answer Ladouceur hopes to find at a series of three hearings he is proposing by the end of this month.
He suggests a meeting at the Pilgrim Senior Center for Governor Francis Farms residents; City Hall for O’Donnell Hill residents; and a third at the Warwick Library or at Harbor Lights Marina and Country Club for Bayside and Warwick Neck residents.
By the time of the meetings, Ladouceur aims to have high and low estimates of what sewer assessments would be for each project, as well as the cost of septic systems if homeowners are faced with replacing their current cesspools or septic systems.
“There’s a cost of doing it this way or that way,” he said.
The commission has found that one of the more costly elements is the repaving of streets. Ladouceur likes the suggestion of commission members Jane Austin and Michelle Komar, that sewers be installed under sidewalks whenever possible and reduce paving costs. He also favors the idea of coordinating sewers with other utility projects, including upgrading of gas and water lines.
“Let’s come up with a cooperative system. If we’re going to dig up; we should do it once and dig it up together,” he said.
Ladouceur also hopes the commission can come up with ways to make sewers affordable. He notes that some homeowners are “upside down” on their mortgages and the threat that they could walk away from their homes is increased by sewer requirements. Ladouceur said the city already has enough vacant and foreclosed homes.
He aims to make a report and a recommendation on a revenue bond to the council by its October meeting. Before concluding its business, he said the commission also plans to have recommended changes for the authority’s enabling legislation. Among changes the authority has sought, is an assessment based on a unit rather than by linear foot. Currently, a landowner with more linear footage pays more, even when both homes are similar in size.