The city council voted last week to set the water rate for fiscal year 2016, which begins July 1. The new residential rate for water is $3.82 per 100 cubic feet, down from $3.91 per 100 cubic feet in FY15. The new commercial rate $5.80 per 100 cubic feet, up from $5.76 per 100 cubic feet.
The city council also voted to approve almost $20 million in bond orders for water and sewer work that has to be done because of the Clean Water Act consent decree to address illegal discharges into the water and sewer system.
City Engineer Nick Catinazzo explained that all of the bond requests are for work being done in the next fiscal year. The first request was for $1.7 million is for the investigations in the sewer and drain system. Dye testing and smoke testing are to determine leaks.
Another $800,000 is for the illicit connection detection. Catinazzo said that includes checking roof leaders, drains and sump pump connections. The largest bond is for $13.45 million for the capital improvement construction of stormwater and wastewater collection systems. This will take the results of the investigations to rehabilitate and replace manholes. Finally, another $2.9 million will be bonded for illicit connection removals.
When the city bonds for the consent decree it is actually a low-interest loan from the Massachusetts Water Resource Authority (MWRA). This is passed along to the water and sewer ratepayer.
The entire goal of all this work is to create a water and sewer system that keeps sewage and other wastewater separate from stormwater. It is all part of the 1972 Clean Water Act.
Councillor Brian Arrigo said there was more information needed before he voted. He asked about the project schedule and the debt schedule.
Ward 4 Councillor Stephen Reardon was displeased with getting the loan requests “at the 11th hour.” He said people want to hear what is going on, adding that the bond requests should have come in May and not in June with the rest of the budget for the new year.
Council President John Powers said the council wants advanced notice so the bonds and work can be discussed.
Finance/Collector/Treasurer George Anzuoni said a schedule can be made and the council can be brought up to date on the consent decree.