Something for free?
That’s just what the Warwick Sewer Authority is offering nearly 2,000 homeowners who have the capability to tie into the system, even had paid or are paying the assessment but have elected not to connect.
In letters mailed earlier this month, the authority is offering those capable of connecting to sewers a full free year of service costs, a savings based on the typical household of $600. The offer is good for this year and the free year starts at the point the service connection is made.
The offer has both its critics and advocates.
Eugene Nadeau, a member of the Warwick School Committee who lives in Governor Francis Farms, finds the letter disingenuous. In a letter to the editor published in today’s Beacon, Nadeau calls the offer “an unforgivable and deliberate misrepresentation” by WSA Executive Director Janine Burke-Wells and Service Manager Anthony Poole.
Nadeau has had access to sewers for years but has chosen not to connect. He has a cesspool, which he said works perfectly fine and has never overflowed. He contends homeowners shouldn’t be lured into connecting to sewers by a free year of service when they’ll end up paying for years afterward.
But Ward 5 Councilman Ed Ladouceur, who headed up the Warwick City Council Sewer Review Commission that ended up revising sewer regulations and gaining council bonding approval enabling the extension of sewers, loves the offer. He correlates the authority to a business and users to customers.
Ladouceur points out that the financial viability of the system, like a business, is dependent on customers. He observes that with the infrastructure in place, the authority relies on the service charge paid by the users to cover operational and maintenance costs. More customers don’t exponentially increase costs, thereby spreading operational costs over a larger base with the potential of maintaining if not reducing costs for everyone.
Ladouceur favors mandatory sewer connections, but that was not part of the package the council approved.
“We can’t do it [connection] by threatening. You have got to make them want to do business with you,” he said. He thinks the one-year of free service does just that.
According to Lynn Owens, administrative coordinator with the authority, the letter prompted a flurry of inquires, some questioning whether the program would be made available to homeowners who will be gaining accessibility to sewers as new projects come on line. Construction started this spring on Gov. Francis Farms Phase III, which is projected to be completed in about 18 months.
No decision has been reached on whether these homeowners would be eligible for a year of free service. Nonetheless, Ladouceur thinks it would be a great idea.
“What’s fair is fair,” he said.
In her letter Burke-Wells writes that the “Warwick Sewer Authority understands that connecting to the sewer system is an expensive proposition and may likely be the reason you have not yet done so.”
The letter outlines the cost of usage charges, which is based on water usage, and service fees. The only charge those choosing to take advantage of the incentive program would be a Renew and Replacement charge of $3.50 per 1,000 cubic feet of water used. What would come off the bill is the usage charge of $47.80 per 1,000 cubic feet of water and the service charge of $31.72 per quarter per residential unit.