October 21, 2014
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Bond OK prelude to sewer work
Warwick Beacon photo
PROVIDING DETAILS: Janine Burke, executive director of the Warwick Sewer Authority, answers questions at Monday’s meeting where the City Council approved authorization of $56 million in sewer revenue bonds.

Despite two colleagues saying the city already has too much debt and there are cheaper alternatives for homeowners and that most funding could be delayed, six council members gave second passage to revenue bonds to extend the sewers and upgrade the treatment plant.

The Monday night vote was preceded with an unusual public comment portion, although the hearing was closed prior to first passage last month. The two bonds passed on a 7-2 vote back then. Six votes were needed for second passage. Ward 2 Councilman Thomas Chadronet was not there and, in spite of pressure to do so, none of the others changed their vote. Had only one changed their mind, the measures would have failed.

But that didn’t happen.

The two financing packages will provide $33 million to extend sewers to six areas of the city, with some projects not starting until as late as 2020, and $23 million for the treatment plant work. Work on additional facilities, to reduce phosphorous and nitrogen in compliance with Department of Environmental Management (DEM) regulations, would start next year. Simultaneously, the Warwick Sewer Authority will heighten Pawtuxet River levees to avert a recurrence of the March 2010 flooding that caused more than $11 million in damages.

Many residents who addressed the council at the first hearing returned Monday to summarize their arguments against the bonds.

John Kennedy said 47 percent of user rates currently goes to paying for debt expenses.

“Will everybody pay, or just the ratepayers? What you guys want to do is suck the dollars out of my wallet,” he said.

Roger Durand likewise focused on the cost.

“Who is going to pay for it? We should know,” he said.

Ward 5 resident Carol Moore said she still wants sewers, “but I don’t have the money. I need to know what it is going to cost.”

The sewer review commission created by Ward 5 Councilman Ed Ladouceur met 14 times and devoted over 50 hours to studying the issue. They projected costs at $15,000 to $30,000 per homeowner. The septic systems option cost the same but would be virtually impossible for some neighborhoods because of soil conditions and lot size. These properties currently have cesspools that must be phased out under DEM regulations.

Ken Fish, who lives in the Bayside area, faces the dilemma. He assured the council he wants sewers, despite Lois Graydon reporting that she polled a portion of the area and found virtually everyone opposed to the costs of sewers.

Councilmen Steve Merolla (D-Ward 9) and Joseph Solomon (D-Ward 4) reiterated arguments made last month. Solomon ran down the list of sewer extension projects, with sewer authority executive director Janine Burke providing the estimated construction schedule and cost of each project. Solomon reasoned that $11 million would cover those projects that could be started reasonably soon and that the council could approve additional bonding as needed.

Ladouceur countered that the council would have the final say on release of the funds and that postponing approval of the full $33 million could push up costs and jeopardize DEM delay of the mandate to phase out shoreline cesspools in Highland Beach, Longmeadow and Riverview – neighborhoods within the Bayside projects. Solomon’s motion to amend the bond to $11 million failed on a 6-2 vote.

“We can achieve the goals without strapping our residents,” said Merolla.

He put the cost of paying off sewer assessments over 20 years at $60,000 and asked, “Would I want to spend $30,000 [the cost of a septic system] or $60,000? We all know the answer.”

He was also critical of the sewer authority’s performance, saying prior projects ran over budget and added to the city’s debt.

“I can’t vote for something that can be achieved for less,” he said.

Ward 8 Councilman Joseph Gallucci, who introduced the measure for the sewer bonding, once again argued his ward generates more than 30 percent of tax revenues, yet has been bypassed in the most recent sewer extension projects. Gallucci has proposed sewers for the O’Donnell Hill neighborhood, even though some residents say they don’t want them. Reportedly, Gallucci has said he would poll the neighborhood on the subject.

Durand suggested that the same procedure be used before moving ahead with construction projects in other neighborhoods. In addition to three Bayside projects and O’Donnell Hill, the work to be done includes Phase III of Governor Francis and Northwest Gorton Pond.

Ladouceur said the sewer review commission would continue to meet to work on ways to reduce costs and find ways to help those who can least afford sewers. He also saw an oversight role for the commission, adding that the sewer authority “can’t continue to operate as an autonomous body.”

The morning following the vote, Ladouceur said, “There’s no doubt the council did the right thing.” He said the major job of the commission now is to find ways to reduce the costs.

Asked for his take on the council vote, Mayor Scott Avedisian replied in an email, “I think that there has been a lot of energy and enthusiasm created by the sewer review committee. Maybe there is a way to keep them engaged in the oversight and governance of the authority.”

There’s little doubt that will happen.

The review commission is slated to now review the authority’s enabling legislation with an eye to changing the method of assessments from a linear foot to a unit cost and providing deferred payments for those who recently installed septic systems. Governance of the authority is also on the agenda.

Those voting for the revenue bonds were Ladouceur, Gallucci, Charles Donovan Jr., Donna Travis, Camille Vella-Wilkinson and Steve Colantuono. Solomon and Merolla voted against both bonds.


Comments
13 comments on this item

Great!!! Now get started!!!!!!

I'm excited about protecting the bay. But everybody should help share the burden. Not just the few that connected to the sewers. A connect capable fee is fair and will motivate people to connect. This will once again help clean the bay. The fewer leech fields the better.

Ladouceur rigged the process since the beginning....the commission was composed with the majority wanting sewers.....when in years to come seniors have to sell their homes to pay for sewers Ladoucuer will be responsible....good move Eddie.

Has anyone really run the numbers? If what they say is true and it will be $30000 per house to connect and 6% interest with taxes and a modest inflation rate it will end up costing approximately $50000 per house hold.

Now we just got a quote for a RI DEM approved septic system which would cost $25000 how does this make sense? If the DEM is mandating the change from cesspools to either sewer or and approved septic why in the world would I want to connect to the sewers at that cost?

If a group of households in affected neighborhoods were to get RI DEM approved septic systems I am sure a smart contractor would lower the price per house. Then as a group we challenge the WSA in court though it would cost I am sure it would be cheaper than connecting to the sewers and also meet the environmental issues.

I HAVE NOT MEET ANYONE IN WARWICK WHO IS OPPOSED TO CONNECTING TO SEWERS – EVERYONE WHO IS OPPOSED TO SEWERS ARE OPPOSED TO THE COST!

The foreclose rate in zip code 02889 is 70% higher than the nation. If residents in Bayside are forced to hook up to sewers, many will be forced to leave their homes. THIS COULD POTENTIAL COST NEW CONNECTS $60,000.

If you live in Bayside 1,2, and 3 please sign the petition opposed to sewers.

THERE IS A HUGE DISCONNECT between the reality of hardship in this city and our city government.

The law of causality is the law of identity applied to action. All actions are caused by entities. The nature of an action is caused and determined by the nature of the entities that act; a thing cannot act in contradiction to its nature . . . . The law of identity does not permit you to have your cake and eat it, too. The law of causality does not permit you to eat your cake before you have it.

Oh, yes, there's a huge disconnect between reality of hardship... and like the story of the turtle and the scorpion, they can't help it...it's in their nature!

* correction: turtle should be frog

WHO CAN AFFORD 15,000 to 30,000? THIS IS INSANITY. THE COUNCIL IS TERRORIZING THE CITIZENS>

As I see it,the City Council wants us to hand them a signed check,,,,they will fill in the amount.We are told its good for us....how is that? We do not know how much this will cost!! What the time frame will be,! And how it will impact the many homes that are currently for sale. Who knows,we could be the next Detroit.....Sounds like Pelosi" we have to pass the bill,to find out whats in it" What part of NO do you not understand?

h

This isn't meant as to be personal or an isult to you specifically, People don't show up at city council meetings until it's too late, and they don't lift a finger beyond casting a vote, you ( the collective ) get the government you deserve. That attitude expands throughout the nation.

The nation's majority are low information voters and "I'm going to go watch the game" flunkies. They lack civic duty and probably sit back until they feel it's whining time again then whine like a shopper rallying for a register discount. American culture is sick, more specifically has an illness, Life is more than being a spoiled American, there is massive responsibility with freedom because greed and liars are free to take advantage of you and me. If you know the realities, lead don't follow.

OK enough of this petty whining already!!!!!! So when we getting sewers?????? :-)

So when we getting sewers?????? :-)

Answer - As soon as the City can get the limit raised on the credit card and the bill sent to someone else.

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