September 1, 2014
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Panel backs $56 million in sewer bonds

The council commission that has been meeting as frequently as twice a week for the last three months is expected to recommend to the council tomorrow night that it grant the Warwick Sewer Authority the power to borrow $56 million in revenue bonds.

“It was a unanimous decision,” Ward 5 Councilman Ed Ladouceur said of the commission’s vote on two separate issues Thursday. Of the total, $23 million would be used for required upgrades of the wastewater treatment plant and elevating the Pawtuxet River levee that couldn’t hold back floodwaters in 2010. That flood resulted in about $13 million in damages to the treatment plant.

The remaining $33 million, which promises to be especially controversial, would be used for six major sewer extension projects.

Approval of the funding, Ladouceur pointed out in an interview Friday, “doesn’t obligate them [the WSA] to go ahead with the projects.”

Further, he pointed out that, should the council approve the bonding, it would be a considerable period, maybe not until late 2014 that construction would begin.

“It’s not going to happen tomorrow,” he said.

Some residents are questioning whether it should happen at all.

Roger Durand, who has attended a majority of commission meetings, and whose group continues to circulate petitions calling on the authority not to use operating revenues to pay for sewer extensions. The group is calling on the authority to fund future extensions from assessments of those getting the sewers.

“We haven’t been told where it [the money] is going to be coming from,” he said Friday. “The big question is, who is going to be paying for this?”

Projections made by the commission put assessments between $15,000 and $30,000. Currently, assessments are based on linear footage and calculated by multiplying that by how many feet of sewer pipe run along the frontage of a property. It can be paid over 20 years.

The commission has been consistent in advocating a change in the enabling legislation that would equally share the cost of new sewer extensions between all those who would get them.

The question Ladouceur was not prepared to answer was whether the commission would recommend dividing the cost of all six projects by the number of potential new customers or base assessments on a project-by-project basis. He also didn’t have a per-unit assessment rate.

Regardless, Ladouceur said the commission must continue to look to reduce assessments. This includes coordinating projects with other utility work; incentives for contractors to complete projects on time and on budget; and consolidating projects for economy of scale. Delaying the work, he argues, only “kicks the can down the road” and will result in higher costs.

There’s more to it than that.

By statute, when a property with a cesspool is sold, the owner must connect to the sewer or put in an approved septic system. Furthermore, cesspools within 200 feet of the coast face a December 2014 deadline to close. The Department of Environmental Management is prepared to extend the deadline, provided the municipality can show it has a plan to provide sewers and that the funding is in place.

“We have to have the courage to take this thing on now,” said Ladouceur. “They have been sitting there and their life is in limbo because government hasn’t acted and they wonder if they’re going to get sewers.”

Ladouceur would like to take on all six projects at once.

Yet, that would not provide sewers to all parts of the city; some sections, such as Potowomut, may never get sewers.

“If we can’t do sewers, we have got to come up with a program for these folks,” he said.

Septic systems can cost $25,000 and more.

The resolutions the council will consider tomorrow, should they be approved, would be followed by a rate study.

At Ladouceur’s request, the $33 million revenue bond for the six projects – three bayside/Longmeadow/Highland Beach and Riverview projects; Governor Francis Farms Phase III; O’Donnell/East Natick; and Northeast Gorton Pond – is limited to those projects and can’t be used for something else.

Ladouceur sees the bond issues as a step in the process. He hopes the commission will soon have recommendations for changes to the enabling legislation dealing with assessments, deferments, governance, programs for non-sewered areas, maintenance and construction.

He would like the authority to report to the council and for the mayor and council to have more oversight.

Durand sees enabling legislation as the critical issue, although he will raise questions about costs and how they would impact rates and assessments tomorrow night.

After tomorrow, debate will continue before the council and quite possibly at the State House. The debate is far from over.


Comments
23 comments on this item

What seems to be the problem here? Why would anyone question giving the WSA more authority to mis manage even more money. They have already incurred in excess of 10 million dollars in cost over runs, been the over seeing agency for shotty construction, continue to be cloaked in secrecy and not accountable to the taxpayer, whats the problem? At least we know the level of their incompetence and we will be prepared for the worst case scenario. Big deal sewer usage costs have gone up 36% in two years, all the residents in Warwick are filthy rich, their homes are all paid for, they all drive luxury vehicles, and are ale to suffer the costs of a mis managed agency. Stop complaining already!

15,000 to 30,000 in assessments? Are you people crazy? Who can afford that? NO NO NO.

My guess is that they will never assess the property owners the true cost of the sewer construction projects. Politically for thiose council members in those areas it counld cost them their seats. Rather the sewer board will continue with the current linear footage method and thus occur millions of dollars in additional debt that will be passed onto all current sewer users in the form of increased usgae fees. That on top of the $23 million to be spent upgradiing the treatment plant will also lead to even higher swer usage fees.

Next time you get your combined water/sewer bill take a look at the usuage fee. According to sources about 47% of that fee is paying for under assessed past projects. That means the true cost to treat the water you are putting into the sewer system is really half of what the WSA is charging you.

And our elected leaders on the council wnat to give the WSA the authority to borrow $56 million more. It's time to wake up Warwick taxpayers.

If I was a property owner without sewers I would take a serious look at spending the $20,000 for a state of the art septic system. At least with that system there would be no money paid in the form of sewer usage fees to the Warwick Sewer Authority.

Bob as one of those Warwick tax payers in that area (for 3 months now) I agree with you on all points and have to question why did it take WSA so long to truly address this issue, to me it looks like the looming deadline is the only reason and they should all be dismissed of their duties along with most every elected official in the city seeing all they do is address their own agendas.

I urge ALL WARWICK TAX PAYERS to think before the next election if this issue directly affects you or not because it very well could be an issue that affect your finances next. End the “good old’ boy” network seeing local government is turning out to be no better than what we have in DC…

I would much rather spend $30,000 + to have my own septic put in then be hooked to the Warwick sewer system. But it is my understanding if/when they put a sewer line in we will still be charged an easement similar to a usage fee…

Mr. Cushman, Is there any effort by local , state or federal politicians to bring in financial aid for the construction. If we're going to have tax and spend liberals in office shouldn't they be bringing in some pork.

Norm88 you are correct. Even if you put in a DEM approved septic system, if the WSA puts sewers into your area you will have to pay the assessment fee. This begs the questions, should these sewer projects be initiated without the proper study to determine if residents are better off developing their own or coordinated neighborhood septic systems. It actually might be more cost effective to do the latter.

But this will not happen because the WSA is like a giant sucking leech. It has been so poorly mismanaged and has over a $100 million in debt that it needs more customers to pay higher and higher usage fees to get it out of its hole. That will only happen with approval to borrow and begin these new sewer construction projects.

That makes my point if people wake up and vote out those who put the miss-managers in power with any luck and if the correct replacements are chosen they will correct the issue with the WSA and other such groups….

Well it is nice to dream!!

I am just not sure how in this day and age any one in an elected position from the local, state, or fed level can sleep or look them self in the mirror and think “I am doing a great job for ALL and just the SPECIAL interest groups that gave me my seat” and truly this is what it has come to demand change in WARWICK. People are leaving in droves, schools are closing and truly the people in charge are asleep at the wheel laughing at us all positions in politics that were once meant as stepping stones are now being used as carriers and we the tax payers allow it to carry on…

People stop already! This is a good thing!!!!! Try channeling your energy in to something more positive like a charity or something. This is not a big deal please take a breath and focus on what is really important in life not these petty issues. Sewers are needed enough said.

Warwickguy so you would be okay with the city chargeing you 15-30 thousand dollars for sewer???

You cant put a price tag on the future of our children and the over all health and well being of generations to come. We at warwick Neck welcome sewers although my system is 8 years old and is working perfectly I would do what is best for the community. Sure no one wants added expenses but sometimes it is necessary for the good of all. It is time people started to worry about others more than themselves and do the right thing. So many negitive and hostel people out there maybe focusing on the good of all would be a nice start.

Warwickguy, I hooked into the sewers as soon as they became available. I care about the bay. But 6.3% is a high price for the bonds. I want sewers all over Warwick, but I want it done responsibly. The sewer board and the city haven't done a very good job as fiduciaries of the taxpayers.

Warwickguy my grip is not about hooking up to the sewer we are more than willing to at fair and equitable price, it is about refusing to be a sheep and have my hard earned money used to bail out the WSA which has mismanaged it’s self into such debit that 60% of our payments go to pay the debit.

The statement for the better good is code for “I don’t care about my neighbor” there a family’s with kids and elderly on fixed incomes who worked there whole life’s for their home (which is fact because it is the reason the home we bought was sold by a widower) that are for sure not going to be able to afford this and will have to sell their homes in most cases at a loss. By your logic that is okay as long as it is for the greater good, and the fact that you trust WSA with protecting the bay which they have proven that they can’t do… So your mantra should be “For the greater good at any cost even thy neighbor”

you

No Im sorry I feel you are misunderstanding my position or maybe what I am saying. How is this any different then my 22,000. plus a year taxe bill that is paying for city services I dont use. I send my childern to private schools but pay school tax, I've never been inside the library, city pool, city park, ect but my taxes are based on paying for these services. What I am saying is put sewers in, total up what the costs are and divid that equally to all the residents. This way there is no more debt and your user fees would go down. Basically start fresh. Please note, I dont have an issue with paying for services I or my family are not using because I know it is for the greater good of everyone.

Warwickguy......the greater good? Yes, sewers are 'good' but charging citizens 15-30 grand for them is not 'good'. That is bad. Add another 300-600 a year in user fees which go up each year, on top of 300-500 a year in water bills. Good? Don't think so. When it comes to financial stability a person has to fend for themselves, not their neighbors. Get off your high horse. You obviously have the money. I have home owner relatives on fixed incomes who are barely making it. The fact that the WSA allows you 20 years to pay it off means you won't be able to sell your house unless you take the proceeds from the sale, if you aren't under water, to pay off the WSA. Plus, at 15-30 grand, the WSA can't match the rates you would get for a home equity loan. But who wants to burden themselves with a home equity loan?

Warwickguy What it is about is caring about your neighbor and not being pompous and fighting for what is right for all. I know all about property taxes we own commercial and rental properties plus the one we live in so it is not about property taxes and at none of these properties have we paid as much as is being discussed now for sewers. We have no kids and never will so me and those on fixed incomes pay for all that you do you’re nothing special. The issue is with the constant mismanagement of the WSA that has brought us to this point and people like you allowing it to happen or are you on the board??? Oh and by the way no one is miss your point you’re pompous…

Norm88 so anyone that may have a opinion other then yours will result in name calling and being rude. The one blessing in this is you don't have any children because ignorance breeds ignorance. I would be ashamed if one of my children couldn't respect another persons opinion or view and find it acceptable to name call or try belittling them for not agreeing. It is people like you that make me realize how sad some people truly are. Good luck to you sir and please keep in mind getting therapy is nothing to be ashamed of.

P.S. My family and I live in GF and we are still waiting and looking forward to finally getting our street done. Try to speak for yourself.

Thank you Connor we in Warwick Neck are also looking forward to sewers. I do believe it will benefit us all, I dont take the commets personally people just like to squawk then in time they tend to more on.

Connor here is a definition of pompous: pom•pous (pmps)

1. Characterized by excessive self-esteem or exaggerated dignity; pretentious: pompous officials who enjoy giving orders.

2. Full of high-sounding phrases; bombastic: a pompous proclamation.

3. Characterized by pomp or stately display; ceremonious:

By mentioning at 22000+ tax bill which is no way is average here in Warwick fits the above definition to me seeing that the major issue here is affordability. As for you you’re no better than me (not that your opinion matters) it is okay for you to insult someone?

And to the point are you sure people in GF are okay with paying up to $30000.00 plus the price to connect their home to the line? Doing a quick search there is at least one law suit between a GF land owner and WSA and here is a link to an article stating that 100 home owners in GF signing a petition about the unjust charging by WSA back in 2009 when the price per linear foot went up I can only guess what they think now that the price is going to more the double. http://warwick.uber.matchbin.com/printer_friendly/2669284 .

So if you think I am ignorant for using an adjective that fits the statement fine. I will always use my first amendment right to speak out against what I think is unjust treatment by the powers that be an those who choose to stand by those choices of those powers …

http://www.warwickonline.com/stories/Bill-lifts-mandatory-sewer-connections,72163

@warwickguy & connor:

Please forgive me if I am mischaracterizing your statements however based on what you wrote it is clear to me that you have no issue with the inefficiencies and mismanagement in our government at all levels.

As long as the cause is noble, and cleaning up the bay is a noble cause, Warwick resident shouldn’t complain or question our government officials. Simply continue to fork over tens of millions of dollars of our earnings in the form of new property taxes, car taxes, sewer assessment fees, usage fees as long as the government can accomplish these noble causes. Using our money in a cost effective, efficient manner is secondary to accomplishing the goal.

I guess President Obama already spending $634 million on development of the national healthcare web site with projections that the final cost will exceed $1 billion, when the initial cost was projected at $93 million, is ok too, since universal healthcare is a noble cause?

Regarding the Warwick Sewer Authority (WSA), and why people like Norm88 and Patientman are critical of how it has been operated, consider these facts:

1 The WSA is $108 million in debt as a result of under assessing past sewer projects, and;

2 has increased user rates 100% in 6 years, and;

3 approximately 50 % of your sewer usage bill goes to pay WSA debt service, and;

4 due to chronic operational shortfalls, the WSA owes the city $ 5 million, and:

5 Moody’s investment firm has placed Warwick on a negative credit watch because of this and other unfunded liabilities.

I am always appreciate when additional Warwick residents chime in on these blogs. However before you castigate others for questioning our elected and appointed city leaders (WSA board) regarding how they spend our tax dollars; you really need to educate yourself on the budgetary facts and trends in the city if you really care about our children and their future.

I hope you will discover that the City of Warwick has some serious issues that are not being addressed by the current leadership in the city and get more involved with the political process. Maybe we will someday stop re-electing the same people who have caused all these problems.

Please copy and paste these links into your browser and take a look a these two documents that analyzes city and school spending over the last ten years and the future liabilities our children will be paying for when they are adults and then explain to me how much confidence you have in our current elected and appointed city leaders in solving these problems.

Budget: https://drive.google.com/file/d/0B6P1sIPd4PTdTkI5WF9NM1pjVXM/edit?usp=sharing

Pension: https://drive.google.com/file/d/0B6P1sIPd4PTdaUxWbDc3TE5TSDg/edit?usp=sharing

Thank you Bob Cushman for the information you have kindly provided me. I appreciate the time you took to give me more insight. I will read it when I return home this evening. Again thank you for your time.

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