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MDC Proposal Could Double Use Cost

Utility Seeks To Implement $671 Million Project For Reducing Overflow Of Sewage, Rainwater Into City Homes, River

August 8, 2005
By JONATHAN SHUGARTS, Courant Staff Writer

WETHERSFIELD - Property owners in the eight municipalities served by the Metropolitan District Commission could see the cost for sewer use more than double in five years under a plan the district board endorsed in July.

The $671 million plan would reduce combined sewage overflow, a mixture of rainwater and sewage that backs up into homes in Hartford and into the Connecticut River and the Wethersfield Cove.

The plan was created in response to a 1997 incident in which 21 million gallons of sewage was dumped into the cove as a result of a faulty coupling holding up a sewage gate leading to the cove. The DEP levied fines against the MDC and ordered it to develop a plan to better deal with the overflows.

The draft of the plan was compiled in April by Camp, Dresser & McKee Inc., a consulting firm hired by the MDC, which said it represents "the largest capital expenditure linked to one program in the district's history."

So far, the plan is estimated to cost $671 million, and if unchanged means that each household could see the cost for sewer service jump from an average $126 per year to $267 in 2010. The cost gets progressively higher until 2025 when it's projected to reach an average of $602 per household.

And even without the implementation of a long-term solution for separation of wastewater, the cost for sewer service is projected to rise to an average of $234 per household by 2010, because of structural improvements on the aging system.

"The reason for that is we're looking for infrastructure that is aging. The first pieces were installed right around the Civil War," said MDC spokesman Matt Nozzolio.

Nozzolio said there is a need for the MDC to invest in improvements and repairs, regardless of whether the plan is implemented.

The cost per household, however, could change. The average cost per household differs depending on the towns, which are Hartford, East Hartford, West Hartford, Newington, Wethersfield, Windsor, Bloomfield and Rocky Hill.

MDC officials are hoping to secure grants for half the improvements from either the federal or state level. The rest of the money could come from either state revolving funds, which are low-interest state loans, or bond financing.

Some officials, however, have called the method the MDC uses for billing towns unfair. The billing becomes important because municipalities will ultimately provide funding for the project through taxes. Sewer costs are based on the amount of property tax receipts collected per town.

State Sen. Jonathan Harris, D-West Hartford, introduced a bill in April calling for a more "equitable and efficient" billing method. Harris introduced the bill because residents who live in property rich towns such as West Hartford are footing more of the bill for the sewer system, according to a statement. The bill was not approved by the legislature.

"The bottom line is we're not charged on our usage, we're charged on our taxes," Harris said.

Rocky Hill Town Manager Barbara Gilbert said she also would like to see the billing formula changed for similar reasons.

But, she said, "[the project] is something that has to be done. We have to comply. We will have to pay because of our growth. Grand list growth has a tremendous impact on that formula."

Before the plan can be implemented, it needs Department of Environmental Protection approval, which could come as early as the end of the month. If approved, the plan would go to a voter referendum in 2006, requiring a simple majority from the voters in the member municipalities.

Reprinted with permission of the Hartford Courant. To view other stories on this topic, search the Hartford Courant Archives at http://www.courant.com/archives.
| Last update: September 25, 2012 |
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