NEW BRITAIN - A resolution that would waive municipal water and sewer fees for the city died in committee Thursday night.
The resolution, put forth by Alderman Jamie Giantonio, would shift the burden of paying water and sewage fees the city uses in municipal buildings from the city budget to the Water Department.
Ray Esponda, acting director of the Water Department, is already seeking a 5 percent water rate increase for customers. This 5 percent increase would amount to about $240,000, Esponda told the Common Council Consolidated Subcommittee on Thursday.
The city paid more than $200,000 in water and sewage fees for municipal buildings in 2016, so shifting the burden of these payments back to the Water Department would essentially nullify the rate increase Esponda is currently asking for.
“So if this resolution were to come out of committee and get to the council and pass, this would basically erase what you’re trying to do,” Alderman Jim Sanders, who is not on the Consolidated Subcommittee, asked Esponda.
“It would,” Esponda replied.
Sanders then asked if that would potentially force the Board of Water Commissioners to ask for a higher rate increase, something between 10 and 15 percent.
“I would say yes. It would have to be more revenue generated,” Esponda said.
Alderman Carlo Carlozzi, who also is not on the subcommittee, had similar concerns that the waiver would wipe out the 5 percent rate increase Esponda is currently seeking.
“To me, this resolution puts the Water Department more in the hole than it already is,” Carlozzi said. “This is just passing the buck on to the rate-payers.”
Esponda told the subcommittee that he was “taken aback” by the proposal to waive these fees when he first heard of it.
“It’s a big hit to take,” Esponda said of the proposal. “It’s helping out the general fund but it would be at the expense of the water fund.”
Alderman Wilfred Pabon said he would not support the resolution if it went to the full council, and said he hoped the creator of the resolution was here to better explain the reasoning for the proposal.
Throughout the meeting, it was unclear as to who would have the final say in the matter. The Water Department usually comes to the council for water rate proposals - but ultimately the Board of Water Commissioners has the final word on rate changes - so this is essentially just a formality. A waiver on water and sewage fees may be a similar situation.
Alderman Daniel Salerno motioned to refer the resolution back to the full council with a neutral recommendation, but the motion was not seconded - killing the proposal.
Skyler Frazer can be reached at 860-801-5087 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.