Sewer costs: RTM ponders who should pay
Updated 11:30 pm, Tuesday, September 29, 2015
A wastewater facilities planning study that won funding approval from the Representative Town Meeting on Monday set the stage for a future discussion: Should those property owners without sewers have to pay for improvements to the town’s sewer system?
The study costs $748,205, with $407,519 of that amount eligible for reimbursement through a federal Environmental Protection Agency grant. The remaining $340,686 would be split between the town and the Water Pollution Control Authority.
Peter Ambrose, R-2, said during committee meeting on the survey funding, some questions were raised about the rationale for splitting the funding between the town and the WPCA, rather than having the WPCA — a quasi-independent entity — pay the entire amount.
Past practice, according to town officials, has been for the town to fund, or help fund, capital projects. While not all properties may be on a sewer line, First Selectman Michael Tetreau said, an argument can be made that everyone in town benefits.
“That’s been a topic of discussion,” Tetreau said, and a decision should be made on whether the town wants the WPCA to be completely self-funded. The WPCA covers all of its operating costs through fees and assessments.
Tetreau said that going forward, if the decision is to have the WPCA pay not only its operating costs, but also cover capital project costs, a change should be made to the town charter.
“My concern is there are many residents in town that feel that the costs of this project should be borne by the end users,” Ambrose said. “A lot of people in Southport and Greenfield Hill and some other areas don’t have access to city sewers, yet they share in the cost. Is that fair? I don’t think it is. I think we need to come up with a fairer resolution.”
Fairfield Woods Road resident Doug Jones, however, noted that several years ago the town spent $1.9 million to complete a fire-suppression line project for the Greenfield Hill area. “That cost was borne by all the taxpayers,” Jones noted, “not simply by the folks benefiting off the project.”
Tetreau also said one thing to keep in mind is that if the cost of capital projects is added to sewer-use bills, the two largest users in town — Fairfield University and the state of Connecticut’s rest stops on Interstate 95 — would share in the payment. If the costs are borne by the town, and become part of property tax bills, those entities would not pay any portion of that.