Glastonbury Town Council opposes water rate increases
By Steve Smith - Staff Writer
Glastonbury - posted Fri., Nov. 15, 2013
Glastonbury residents will soon be paying more for water, but the Town Council and state legislators are hoping to do something about it. The Metropolitan District Commission supplies water to its member towns, including Bloomfield, East Hartford, Hartford, Newington, Rocky Hill, West Hartford, Wethersfield and Windsor. It also supplies water to Glastonbury, South Windsor, Farmington and East Granby.
The MDC has public hearings scheduled over the next several weeks, as it begins to decide on a budget for 2014 that would include a substantial increase for the nearly 6,000 Glastonbury customers. State Rep. Joe Dominico (D-13) said that he and other legislators are very concerned about the proposed increase in rates by the MDC, and said that state Sen. Steve Casssano (D-4), state Rep. Prasad Srinivasan (R-31), state Sen. Tim Larson (D-11) and state Rep. Michael Demicco (D-21) also signed a letter drafted to the MDC.
“I've received quite a few e-mails and phone calls from Glastonbury residents,” Dominico said, adding that the costs have increased by 130 percent in the past two years for the non-member towns, without any representation at MDC hearings. “The time has come... where enough is enough,” Dominico said, adding that while most public utilities have some sort of elected body, or fall under regulatory control, most of the members of the MDC are appointed, and only one official is elected.
Dominico said that speaking at the meetings would hopefully be the first step in bettering Glastonbury's relationship with the MDC, and he did not want it to become accusatory. “Personally, I feel all 12 towns should be treated equally, and we all should have a share in the cost,” Dominico said.
Town Manager Richard Johnson said Glastonbury's 5,972 customers comprise the majority – about 68 percent - of the four non-member towns' 8,756 customers. Member-town residential customers would pay about $651, while Glastonbury customers would pay about $862 for the same consumption.
A surcharge to non-member towns was said to be “to recoup from non-member towns the cost that member towns invested in the water infrastructure over many preceding years,” according to Johnson, who added that there is not a detailed explanation of those costs.
The Town Council quickly got on board with Dominico's effort. “That's no surprise – that we don't have a detailed description of costs from the MDC,” said Councilman Tim Coon. “I would hope that if they are asking us to pay previous costs, that it's going to be at the actual costs of the 1930, 1910, or 1890 dollar figure. That would be the only fair way to do it.”
Councilman Tom Gullotta said the MDC has been “trying to take advantage of the citizens of Glastonbury” for decades, including disagreements over land. “They can pretty much do as they please,” he said, adding his support to change what he calls a “quasi-public” authority, and how they operate. “There is something fundamentally wrong,” he said, “with the creation of an entity that has no oversight, and I think that's what really bothers me.”
Councilman Whit Osgood said it would behoove the town to officially oppose the surcharge. “I would like to see if we have any legal recourse to get that overturned, as well,” Osgood said.
The council passed a resolution opposing the fees, and Johnson said he would draft a letter to the MDC on the town's behalf, which would be to seek remedy to the non-member surcharge through the legislature, and possibly through legal action.
After Council Chair Chip Beckett asked that the letter not contain animosity, Gullotta said he thought differently. “I wouldn't mind animosity,” he said. “In fact, that is an outfit that probably feels an enormous amount of animosity, because the town has rejected them twice on their their grand schemes to develop over 800 acres here in town. Understand you're tangling with a wildcat. We are the wildcat.”