Mayor Explains Rate Increases
A mix of state mandates and the use of water from MDC during the drought, will cause water rates to increase by 5 percent this year in all towns which receive New Britain water.
According to Mayor Erin E. Stewart the water rate has not increased in 10 years, but sewer bills have gone up recently.
“When you get your water bill, the water and sewer bills are combined. But, they are broken up on the bill,” said Stewart. “Sewer rates went up to pay for the debt service on the improvements on the Mattabasset District Sewer Treatment plant.”
New Britain had to increase those rates to pay for their portion of the project.
“We are having to pay for additional State and Federal mandates to make improvements to the sewer and water systems which comes from the Environmental Protection Agency and the water act,” Stewart said. “They come at a pretty hefty cost.”
In the next couple of years New Britain will have to make $20 million in improvements including relining, repairing and replacing sewer lines in order to meet the requirements. The flow of water has to be lowered that is being sent into waste water treatment plant during storms. The system will be upgraded.
On May 15 the public works board approved a sewer rate of $4.24 per 100 cubic feet. On May 9, the New Britain Board of Water Commissioners approved a water rate increase of $29.21 per 1,000 cubic feet. It comes to about a 5 percent increase.
This increase is not just for New Britain residents, but for all towns who are customers of the New Britain Water Department including New Britain, Berlin and Plainville.
“We serve several other surrounding communities,” said Stewart. “We will stand to gain about $535,750 in revenue because of increase. Every dollar of that is going towards infrastructure improvement and the half million dollars of water we purchased from MDC. We have to recoup those costs.”
The New Britain Water Fund is separate from the City budget. None of these funds will go towards the general budget fund. The funds can only go towards the water company’s special enterprise fund.
“The money is not accounted for in our general fund. The additional money we collect will not support anything other than the water and sewer department,” said Stewart. “A lot of aldermen were kind of confused about that too. We had to set the record straight.”
Stewart said it was a difficult decision that had to be made.
“When you haven’t seen water rate increase in 10 years and you are living in an economy that is growing, you can’t afford growth if there is not growth in revenues,” Stewart added. “Five percent is a small increase in the grand scheme of things when you look at it on the bill. The increase does come with a lot of tension. Any increase comes with controversy, but I know that up keeping, maintaining and insuring that we have the best quality water and best quality sewer system in the long run is a benefit to every resident of the City. We have an obligation to make sure that the product that we offer in terms of clean water is stellar.”