City payment of sewer road work gains traction
A proposal that the city should pay for the repaving of roads after the installation of sewers rather than the property owners who would gain sewer service has spurred Riverview homeowners to rally in an effort to reduce sewer assessments expected to be in the range of $25,000.
Construction of sewers in Riverview, a section of the Bayside project including Highland Beach and Longmeadow, is expected to start next year, more than two decades after the area was slated to get sewers. In the interim, not only have construction costs increased but outside funding for sewers has simultaneously dried up.
So when Ward 5 Councilman Ed Ladouceur, who represents the Bayside neighborhoods, said last week he favored the city picking up the cost of repaving roads impacted by sewer construction, which could reduce home assessments by as much as 25 percent, Riverview Association members wanted to hear more.
Some members, like Brenda Smith, also took issue with Mayor Scott Avedisian who, in a story published in last Thursday’s paper, said he thought having the city pave the roads would be inequitable to homeowners with assessments that included the roadwork. In an email to the membership, Smith said they should “fight” the mayor.
Avedisian, who is on the Riverview email list, immediately responded that he wasn’t looking for a fight, restating his position. On Tuesday he elaborated.
“I’m willing to listen to anything as long as it is equitable,” he said when asked if his thinking had changed. He added that he is sure the city and the sewer authority would look to take advantage of “any program that comes up” that could reduce the cost of sewers.
A flurry of email comments followed from other Riverview members, which boosted the turnout for an association meeting Monday night.
The projected cost of sewer assessments dominated the discussion, with Ladouceur giving a history of what has delayed Bayside sewers and residents assailing city leaders for failing to deliver sewers sooner and their “incompetence” and decrying the system as being “inequitable.”
The councilman also outlined his effort to create the council sewer review commission that, over two years, gained city support for a $33 million sewer revenue bond to move ahead with six sewer projects, including Bayside, and enabling legislation that will allow for the authority to extend home assessment payments over 30 years – if the authority can gain those terms for its borrowing. Further, the legislation limits the homeowner’s assessment interest charge to 1.25 percent more than the authority’s loan rate.
Ladouceur observed that in order to gain passage of the legislation he had to drop the provision for a connect capable fee and mandatory connections that would have enhanced authority operating revenues and reduced dependence on those connected to the sewers for the upkeep and operation of the system.
Ladouceur noted neighborhood roads have not been repaved for decades in anticipation they would be dug up for sewers.
“My position is the roads should have been done years ago…you still don’t have sewers or nice roads,” said Ladouceur.
In addition to having the city pay for the roads, the councilman said the authority should pay to replace failed home grinder pumps that are used for low-pressure, non-gravity systems like Bayside. The authority installs the pumps, but homeowners are expected to replace them when they fail. Ladouceur called the pumps part of the overall infrastructure and the responsibility of the authority.
“There’s no equitable exchange, we’re paying for the negligence of years ago,” said Riverview resident Marc Genest.
Referring to what he called an “old truism,” Genest said, “government serves the organized.” He called for the association to reach out to the state’s Congressional delegation and state legislators in an effort to gain federal and state funding for sewers.
Many of the association say they plan to attend the Aug. 22 town hall meeting Congressman James Langevin has planned at Warwick City Hall from 6 to 8 p.m. The group is also drafting a series of talking points they can use to support their argument and is welcoming homeowners affected by sewer construction projects in other parts of the city.
Marc’s wife, Pauline Genest, pointed out that the people of Warwick and the state benefit from sewers by a cleaner Bay and reduced health risks.
“They’re rightfully upset,” Ladouceur said Wednesday. “I’m glad to see these folks starting to get united and get more vocal and expressing their opinions; the fact is they got screwed. They lost on government subsidies, because city dragged their feet in getting the sewers done.”