Sen. Kane Criticizes Huge Sewer Rate Hikes at Heritage Village

February 5, 2015

Sewer rates protested
Heritage Village residents angry at sudden big increases


Heritage Village residents listen in and ask questions on a 73.2 percent proposed sewer rate increase at a forum hosted by Rep. Arthur J. O’Neill, R-Southbury, and Sen. Robert J. Kane, R-Watertown. The event was held at the Activities Building in Heritage Village on Wednesday. Darlene Douty Republican American

SOUTHBURY — Heritage Village residents at a forum Wednesday aired concerns about the local water company’s proposal to increase sewer rates by 73.2 percent and water rates by 5.07 percent.

Rep. Arthur J. O’Neill, R-Southbury, and Sen. Robert J. Kane, R-Watertown, organized the event, held inside a packed Sarah Cooke Hall.

“I’m certainly not on board with this increase and neither is Arthur,” Kane said.

O’Neill said the sewer rate hike would result in annual payment increases of between $200 and $300 for village residents.

The legislators explained that Heritage Village Water Co. wants to raise rates, in part, to pay for $12.1 million in federally mandated improvements to its wastewater treatment plant.

O’Neill said a deal to connect the system to Southbury Training School helped secure a $5.8 million payment from the state to pay for some of the upgrades.

He said the company had to borrow $6.2 million to pay for the work, and now has to raise its rates to pay the money back.

The state-owned training school would see a rate increase of 26 percent, while the rest of Heritage Village Water Co.’s customers would realize a 73.2 percent hike.

Kane said he asked the private company if the increase could be phased in gradually, but was told it had to be done this way.

Most residents who spoke Wednesday morning were critical of the company for not phasing in the increases.

“Heritage Village Water Co. knew about this before and should have spread it out instead of hitting us with this big increase at the last minute,” Joe Stammelman said.

Another resident complained that customers were only informed after the required treatment plant upgrades were “a done deal.”

O’Neill said the company operates the only independent sewage treatment plant in Connecticut, so its rate increases must be approved by the Public Utilities Regulatory Authority (PURA), which is not expected to render a decision for several months.

Robert DeRosa, a representative from PURA’s consumer division, attended Wednesday’s meeting along with Heritage Village Master Association Treasurer Paul Katzmark and Vice President Terry Sullivan.

Among the suggestions from residents was the state taking the water company by eminent domain so it can become a public utility rather than a private company with a small number of customers absorbing the financial hit.

Vel Courtland, a village resident, called the rate increases a “three punch” proposal that would also hit customers with higher common charges and lower real estate values.

“Who’s gonna come here?” she asked. “This is horrendous. It really is. This is a very serious situation.”