Ladouceur aims to cut sewer assessments
Sixty percent of work on Phase III of Governor Francis sewers is completed, with most of the pipe in the ground and crews now concentrating on stubs for home connections.
But the cost to the homeowners, projected at $21,000, remains a concern and Janine Burke-Wells, director of the Warwick Sewer Authority, said Tuesday the authority continues to look at ways to reduce assessments that are calculated by dividing the cost of the entire project by the total properties that could link to the system.
Meanwhile, Ward 5 Councilman Ed Ladouceur renewed his plea that the cost of repaving roads after the installation of sewers should be shared by all city taxpayers. Ladouceur said Wednesday he plans to introduce a resolution or ordinance – “whatever it takes” – to make that the practice. Should the cost of repaving be borne by the city, he estimates assessment costs would drop 20 to 25 percent.
Burke-Wells said an option being explored is lowering the interest rate on assessment payments. Depending on the terms of the bonds the authority is able to procure, the homeowner can choose a payment schedule of up to 30 years. The authority has the ability to tack on additional interest above the rate it is borrowing the money to cover administrative costs. Burke-Wells said the authority is looking at eliminating that add-on that could reduce assessment interest costs by close to 2 percent.
After winning election in 2012, Ladouceur made bringing sewers to the Bayside section of the ward and completing other sewer projects like Governor Francis a priority. As the commission he formed examined the cost of sewers and the impact on assessments, Ladouceur argued roads are open to everyone and that when repaving is completed in other parts of the city residents on either side of the road are not expected to foot the cost.
“I have changed my feelings,” he said Wednesday. “I’m even more aggressive that the cost of roads should come off [the cost] of sewers.”
He said taxpayers in his ward are already paying for road repaving but “they have been deprived of sewers because of the failure of government over the last 20 years.” He said because prior administrations didn’t follow through with sewers for Bayside, not only did they lose government subsidy programs but costs went up.
“They’re already paying their fair share of roads,” he said of Ward 5 taxpayers.
If enacted, Ladouceur sees the removal of repaving costs from assessments applying to all sewer projects taken on with the $33 million in bonding approved by the council. He said he envisions it applying to O’Donnell Hill sewers in Ward 8 as well as Greenwood sewers in Ward 7.
Senator Michael McCaffrey, whose district includes Governor Francis, is well familiar with the assessment issue. He heard about it while campaigning for the primary election. He said Tuesday he believes enabling legislation gives the City Council the power to deduct repaving expenses from the assessment.
Burke-Wells said the authority would review a $265,194.56 change order claim received from Governor Francis contractor C.B. Utility for ledge encountered during construction. Other than that unexpected additional cost, she said the project bid for $5.7 million is on budget and on time.
She also reported that plantings to School Department property, which is part of John Brown Francis School, on Lansdowne Road that had been cleared of more than 80 trees as a staging area for the sewer project, would take place soon. An alternate site was found for the storage of project materials and to park equipment. Burke-Wells thought the plantings should be completed by Oct. 15.
In response to sightings of rats in the neighborhood in the wake of the sewer project, she said that Falcon Pest Control is setting traps to address the problem. She didn’t have a report on a number of rodents trapped.
Burke-Wells said that work on the pump station situated at the southerly end of Lansdowne Road would be done over the winter. Assessments to property owners would not be levied until the system is operational which “at the earliest” would be October 2019, she said.