Bill enables sewer authority changes

Ladouceur continues fight for fairness

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With passage of enabling legislation that will allow the Warwick Sewer Authority to revise the current linear foot process of assessment, lower interest costs and offer a program for hardship cases, it would appear Ward 5 Councilman Ed Ladouceur has accomplished what he set out to do when he first ran for election in 2012.

Think again.

Ladouceur is geared up to take on a new challenge in his campaign to bring “fairness and equity” to Warwick taxpayers. And you guessed it – it has to do with what sewer customers are paying.

Ladouceur asks why should property owners, who are paying for sewers with their assessment, bear the cost of repaving neighborhood streets when those are city streets are open to everyone?

His glaring example of inequity is in Ward 5 and the neighborhoods of Riverview and Highland Beach.

“They were promised since they bought their properties some 20 years ago that they were going to get sewers,” Ladouceur said. And since they were being told they would get sewers, the city didn’t repave the roads.

“So roads didn’t get paved either,” Ladouceur said, “and now they’re going to make the people who are getting the sewers pay for the roads. That’s a complete injustice. Maybe since they paid for the roads they should be the only ones to use the roads. Well, of course, that doesn’t work either.”

So, what would the councilman do?

He doesn’t have an answer…yet.

“That’s the next challenge,” he said in an interview Tuesday, “is fairness and equity for the cost of doing those roads. Everyone should share in the cost of doing those roads.”

It was the longtime promise to bring sewers to Ward 5 neighborhoods and the inequity of assessments that put Ladouceur on the path of creating the Warwick Sewer Review Commission three years ago. A lot has happened since then, and Ladouceur credits the commission – which held countless hearings and devoted hundreds of hours to the task – with bringing attention to the issue of sewers, educating the public and elected officials, and fostering an environment to cooperatively address problems.

“They all brought the sewer authority to a better place,” Ladouceur said of the commission and the City Council. The council approved $33 million in revenue bonds enabling the authority to move ahead with upgrades to the treatment plant and plans to extend sewers to Bayside, Riverview, and Highland Beach, as well as neighborhoods in Ward 1 and Ward 8. While the funding got a green light, efforts to revise the method of assessment and a host of other issues that are part of the enabling legislation encountered bumps.

A sticking point was commission efforts to get property owners to tie into sewers. A connect-capable fee seemed like the preferred method, but that encountered resistance, including state legislation exempting people from linking to the sewers.

Ladouceur’s passion for what he saw as issues of fairness also rubbed some state legislators, and his effort to push revisions to enabling legislation failed to gain legislative approval last year. This session, however, the volume was turned down, and working with lawmakers the enabling legislation passed both houses and became law without the governor’s signature last week. The legislation does not include the authority to enact a connect-capable fee.

But the measure, says Ladouceur, contains many positives.

On the top of his list is the method of sewer assessment. Under the existing system, property owners are assessed based on the linear footage of property on a sewer line. Ladocueur finds this inequitable, pointing out that homeowners with identical houses will end up paying different amounts based on sewer frontage even though they are accessing an identical service.

The commission wrestled with a fee that would be based on dividing the cost of a sewer project by the number of housing units served.

The commission also saw the need to implement some form of hardship provision to account for low-income and fixed-income property owners who couldn’t afford the additional monthly cost of paying an assessment or connecting to the system.

Ladouceur also finds the existing practice requiring homeowners to maintain low-pressure pumps inequitable. The authority installs the pumps in those homes that aren’t at an elevation for a gravity-feed into the system. However, as it is now, homeowners are responsible for replacing the pumps when they fail. As the pumps are part of the overall system, Ladouceur thinks the authority should be responsible for replacing them.

Such details as the rate of assessment and the pumps, Ladouceur expects to be addressed by the authority in its rules and regulations. Under the enabling legislation, the authority has a year in which to adopt rules and regulations, which Ladouceur said would be reviewed by the council.

The enabling legislation also extends the current 20-year assessment payment plan to 30 years and caps interest cost at 1.25 percent over the prime rate. The current rate on assessment payments varies from 6.3 to 9 percent.

Ladouceur said this is a simple-interest loan and can be paid off without penalty at any time.

Another provision exempts those who have recently installed an approved septic system from having to pay the burden of an assessment when sewers are extended to their neighborhood. Under the measure, homeowners would be exempt from making assessment payments for 20 years, Ladouceur said.

The councilman is looking for the authority to develop incentives for homeowners to link to the system such as discounted connection rates. His point is for the authority to treat homeowners as “customers,” not ratepayers.

Ladouceur views issued faced by the authority as falling into two categories “pre-Janine where a lot of problems are,” and after Janine Burke Wells assumed control of the authority.

He praised her for her leadership, adding that he expects the commission will continue to assist with the work needed to be done.

Burke Wells sees a lot of “positive impacts” to the legislation and said the authority now needs to “dig into” drafting rules and regulations.

In an email, Mayor Scott Avedisian listed the benefits of the bill adding, “build on ongoing efforts to increase transparency and public participation through additional language to require the Warwick Sewer Authority to hold public hearings for a variety of purposes.”

He pointed out the authority would be ooking at different ways for assessing sewer construction costs for planned future projects.  WSA’s Rate Consultant is already looking at this using 3 different methods (traditional frontage, per lot, and per equivalent dwelling unit).

Comments

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richardcorrente

Ed Ladouceur has worked selflessly for years on the Warwick Sewer Bill "Project".

He has invested more time and effort that everyone else put together. He deserves a ton of respect and appreciation for his tireless and continuous efforts, and even now, when you think it's all over, he keeps trying to make the finished product better.

That is the mark of a truly great leader.

We will all benefit from his efforts for centuries to come.

Thank you Ed.

Richard Corrente

Democrat for Mayor

Tuesday, June 21, 2016
Thecaptain

Rick,

You are seriously making me projectile vomit. While Mr. Ladouceur is upset that the roads haven't been paved and he wants the rest of Warwick to share the burden, he had no problem taking contributions from the Warwick Fire Union just weeks before the last contract was ratified as his buy off for his vote. Even though he openly admitted that he never read the contract, the contract increased the liability of the taxpayers by millions of dollars, while at the same time funding for paving was cut. Eddie sat silent as every line item in the budget for services was slashed yet pay raises, promotions, step increases and bonuses were handed out like candy at a circus. He sat quiet. To say nothing of his cozy relationship with the DPW director who has been running the most inefficient department in the city, a department which has had continued issues both criminal and civil. What do you know about sewer issues Rick? I don't remember seeing you testify at the statehouse or weigh in on the cost over runs incurred by D'ambra? Eddie does for Eddie and only Edddie.

Tuesday, June 21, 2016
richardcorrente

Dear Thecaptain,

I'm sorry I made you puke Rob.

I just wanted to acknowledge the efforts of Councilman Ladouceur. You have to admit he's working his head off. Hey Rob. Here's an idea. Why don't you call Ed and say "Hey Ed. I have some ideas about the sewers and rather than being part of the problem like Corrente is accusing me of, I'd like to be part of the solution." Let's see what happens when you channel your passion in a positive direction. I'll bet the results are spectacular because Rob, you clearly have the energy! It's just misguided in my opinion.

Been fishing?

Rick

Wednesday, June 22, 2016
Bob_Cushman

Richard, for someone who claims he has been campaigning for Mayor for the past two years, you either are out of touch with what really is going on in this city or you are trying so hard to gain the support of the political hacks in the city that you lack the courage and conviction to call them out for their actions that have shut down citizen involvement in Warwick government at every avenue.

• Remember the December 2014 council meeting where Council President Travis did everything in her power to stop citizen involvement? The screen suddenly broken, the crowd allowed to hiss and boo?

* Remember William Lloyd cowardly proposing a national wide boycott on my employer and seeking for me to get fired because I dared to speak about the imploding pension system in Warwick?

* Remember Finance Chair Wilkinson personnel insulting my knowledge of the pension system, mocking me as a "hobbyist" ? Remember her referring to citizens as A holes, Warwick Stinks and other derogatory terms?

• Remember the Warwick retirement Board with Wilkinson as a member being sued by the Attorney General and fined $2,000 for intentional violating Open Meeting Act when they didn’t allow citizens an opportunity to attend a meeting?

• How about limiting the public to 10 minute comments during Sewer Review Commission meeting?

• How about limiting the public to 10 minute comment during Charter Review Commission?

• Remember Wilkinson and Travis pulling a bait and switch to bring in the pension expert at the last minute so the public wouldn’t have the opportunity to question him?

• How about Travis scheduling budget hearings on a Saturday or trying so hard to ram all the hearings in, that they last to 12:20 Am on a weeknight with no member of the public present to ask question?

• How about the fire chief and mayor promising documentation on how sick payout are administered but weeks later the city clerk’s reports “no such documents exist”?

• How about the City Council conspiring with Mayor Avedisian and being found guilty of violating the Open Meeting Act by sending out an illegal letter to influence General Assembly members against proposals that Warwick resident legally provided at state house hearing?

I could go on and on and fill this with pages of examples.

You see Richard before you cast dispersion's on others who have been trying to work with the council for years and provide constructive alternatives to current policy, point that finger back at the City Council members and the Mayor who at every turn have gone through extraordinary and sometimes illegal means to shut down the voice of Warwick Citizens.

Wednesday, June 22, 2016
Thecaptain

Rick ,

I take a huge exception to your comment about me being part of the problem and being misguided so let me educate you on a few points in terms of problem solving. Here are a couple of facts:

I spent over $10,000 on the car tax revolt in an effort to pressure the mayor to fix the problem and restore the $6000 exemption, that when it was reduced to $500, was hurting so many people in fixed incomes etc.. The media coverage and the pressure that I kept up was the direct cause for the mayor increasing the exemption by $1500 to $2000. Now here are some other facts. In direct testimony at the state house the tax assessor stated that every increase of $500 in the exemption returns $500,000 in taxes to the community. That means as a result of my efforts and my expenditures the net return to the Warwick residents was $1.5 million per year. Not my figures, the tax assessors figures. Now if you are able, do some simple math. This is the 5th year with the exemption back to $2000. When I went to school, $1.5 million times 5 years equals $7.5 million back to the taxpayer in this city as a direct result of MY efforts. You can say whatever you want about my intentions but the fact of the matter is that there is not one council member, currently seated or previously seated that can point to one issue where their personal efforts have returned that dividend to the city.

When it comes to sewer issues and many many other issues you are clearly outmatched by my knowledge and the knowledge of many other residents that have been actively trying to effect change but are stifled by the friggen morons that you have aligned yourself with.

Further, you comment a lot on this foolish blog but the fact of the matter is that I have never heard you get up in public and make a cogent argument about any subject matter whatsoever. Not a peep during budget hearings. Nadda. I have not seen you be passionate about any subject nor have I seen you perform research, make documentation request thru APRA, and attack any single issue at all. The difference between myself and the dysfunctional council is that when I see a problem I attack it. I will never be politically correct and furthermore in an environment of thieves and unintelligent elected officials, I am not going to be nice. PERIOD. Like it or not I really don't give a damn. But let me know when you, as a resident, return $7.5 mil to the community and I will be impressed.

Your allies and others that attempt to castigate me and silence me whether on this blog or at a council meeting, have zero effect on me, and frankly just gives me more motivation to call out all of the nefarious dealings that are going on in this community.

Oh yeah, one more thing, I have been fishing. In the archives of the city's records. And the fish are big and biting well with lots of results on some ugly stuff from the depths. Here's a latest little tid bit. What WFD chief took a leave of absence with pay, to go to the RI State Police Training Academy to attempt to become a trooper while on the clock with the city? Take a guess. Bigger fish still to come. Some day I'll sit with you and educate you on construction issues and code compliance and how the taxpayers in Warwick are getting screwed.

Wednesday, June 22, 2016