To the Editor: When I was sworn in 2013 I immediately passed a resolution forming the "Warwick City Council Sewer Review Commission." I purposely chose that title because the City had neglected its responsibility in providing Sewers to Bayside 1, 2, and
To the Editor:
When I was sworn in 2013 I immediately passed a resolution forming the "Warwick City Council Sewer Review Commission." I purposely chose that title because the City had neglected its responsibility in providing Sewers to Bayside 1, 2, and 3 for over 25 years. I wanted the people to know that it was the "City Council" that was taking on the fight. In that resolution I appointed myself Chair and appointed people who could help me get the sewers done and those who opposed getting it done.
I wanted both sides of the issue at the table. One of my first appointments was "Doug Harris" representing the Narragansett Indians. This was very important to me because in 1990's the Narragansett's were totally disrespected by the City and the WSA. There was no inclusion of the Narragansetts at the table and no respect for their opinion, ancestors or heritage. As a result of that disrespect the Narragansetts were successful in getting a federal injunction against the City and WSA and had the sewers stopped. Having developed and earned the respect of the Doug Harris, Nancy Brown Garcia and Medicine Man John Brown, we have been able to work together and get to a much better place.
Back in the 1970's the federal government was subsidizing the costs of the sewers by approximately 60%. I believe the City was also subsidizing a small portion and 2 General Obligation Bonds were paying the rest. So, in essence the WSA customers at that time were only paying a very small portion of the costs, not anywhere near the total cost. Due to further delays in getting sewers to Bayside by the City, the costs have increased substantially from 1970 to 1980 to 2013 and now 2020.There were many reasons for that including mismanagement by the WSA, lack of financial responsibility and, of course, politics.
In December 2013 I sponsored and received passage for a $33 million Revenue Bond to complete the sewers in 6 different areas of the City. Six areas that had been denied sewers by the City for well over 25 years. Because of this action, DEM agreed to give us a "final extension" for completing sewers in these areas. DEM was scheduled to begin issue fines to anyone within 200 ft of a body of water that was still on a cesspool of upwards of $900 per day as of Jan 1, 2014. DEM agreed to issue these residents a moratorium from those fines until Jan 1, 2020 because we (the City) made a commitment to have the sewers completed by the Jan 1. 2020 deadline. Here we are in August of 2020 and the City and WSA hasn't lived up to our end of the deal.
Now the COVID 19 virus excuse comes into play. The answer is “not to delay the installation of the sewers for another 2,3 or more years”. I understand that there is great financial hardship on many of our people. Of course that is a significant concern. I understand that unemployment is at an all time high. I also fully realize that the cost of doing the sewers is not going to be cheaper in 2,3 or more years. I also realize that interest rates are not going to be next to zero in the 2, 3 or more years.
While there's going to be pain with the cost of sewers today, the pain is not going to be less by kicking the can down the road as we have done for the last 25 plus years. It will be far more painful in 2021, 2022, 2023. The price of installing a septic system is also significant and the recipient must pay for this immediately or finance at a much higher rate than they will get with sewers.
My enabling legislation also provides for up to 30 years to repay the assessment loan at simple interest. In addition to that many people in Bayside will not be able to utilize much their property with a septic system due to small size of their lots, if they even have the room to install one?
I believe the right thing to do is to start installing pipes right now. Take advantage of the lowest construction costs and near zero interest rates we may not see ever again. The assessments are not scheduled to begin until the project is completed which will be about 2 years. At that time, I would suggest that the financial situation be reevaluated by the City, by our Federal delegation and by the lending institution. Perhaps a deferment or "interest only" payments may be in order for the first year or two of the assessment in order to make the payments more tolerable for those that can not bare the full cost of the monthly payments. Perhaps our Federal Delegation will be able to provide us with some grants to assist our residence and protect our environment which I know the hold in the highest regards. Based on the February bids, the cost from the lowest bidder is $19.6 million for the install. Dived this by approx 880 residences in Bayside 1, 2, and 3 the costs per lot would be approx $22, 300 per property. The costs to hook up will be far less than originally anticipated due to the directional drilling method proposed for the project.
In my opinion, the answer is not to kick the can down the road for another day and time and hope that someone else will deal with the problem. As your elected official it is my responsibility to deal with this now. The answer is not to delay the inevitable, continue to pollute our Bay and other bodies of water. The answer is not to continue having our neighbors hide from a failed cesspool or overflowing septic system or make it impossible to sell your home because of a failed system. The answer is not to continue forcing our neighbors and residents to bear the cost of pumping the systems ($200 / 250 per visit) every few months or even sooner, which according to DEM guideline is a failed system. The answer is “Let’s not let the cost of construction and financing increase exponentially and allow the pain to be much worse by delaying the inevitable.”
I believe that it is our responsibility to get the sewers installed now, not to continue kicking the can down the road for another day and let someone else to deal with the problem. We should not force those that "should" have gotten sewers (and not seen their roads fixed in 30 years "because the sewers are coming") pay for the cost of the roads as part of their sewer assessment. I've strongly opposed this injustice and I will continue to oppose the cost of the roads being forced on those getting sewers.
l To delay sewers is to add additional financial burden down the road to those people that have been denied a city service which they have been entitled to for over 25 or more years.
l I have met with and been requesting our federal delegation to provide the much needed resources to the City in order to provide relief for the costs of the sewers. I know that Washington is a very strong advocate for protecting our environment and has provided billions of dollars to protect our environment. I continue to remain hopeful that my many many requests to our federal delegation will be answered with much needed financial assistance.
I apologize for this very lengthy letter but I hope you find my comments to be just what they are: “my honest and sincere feelings about the sewer issues and without the politics”. I am hopeful that we as a City can get this done now while holding the line on costs and providing assistance, terms and financial relief wherever possible.
Please feel free to contact me anytime about any issues, comments or concerns that you have. We may not always agree but I will always return your calls, reply to your emails and I will always be straight up with you and all those that I represent.
Ward 5 Councilman