SOUTHINGTON — A new flat sewer fee for households with wells has angered some residents, and town officials are divided on whether the new structure is equitable for ratepayers.
According to the town’s Engineering Department, 748 homes draw their water from wells. For those homes, there’s no meter through which to levy a sewer-use fee as is the case with homes on town water.
Under the former system, a household on a well paid $130 per person annually. The number of people in the household was self-reported.
The average household in town has three people.
After changes passed by the Town Council last month, all households on a well will pay $400 per year.
Several residents complained about the flat sewer fee for well owners at council meetings last month. With each household now paying $400, homes with more people in them might pay less while those with one or two residents will pay more than under the previous arrangement.
“Every home that has a private well with one or two occupants is subsidizing those with four or more occupants,” said Mitch Mazur. “I hope that others in town can realize this inequity and persuade the council to revisit this issue and create a billing that is fair amongst private well owners.”
Mazur has two people in his household.
Cheryl Lounsbury, a Republican and council vice chairwoman, said residents can buy and install a meter which measures the water from their well to their house. They would then be billed based on meter readings as other houses in town are.
“The only way I can see that’s fair is the amount of water you use, and if it’s the amount of water it’ll have to be measured,” she said. “It’s a difficult solution. It’s a change from the way we were doing things, but the way we were doing things didn’t work.”
Rates and the billing structure were changed to increase revenue for the water pollution control plant. The plant wasn’t bringing in enough revenue to cover costs.
Lounsbury estimated that a meter and installation would cost about $450. She said the town is looking into buying meters at cost to sell to residents, and getting discount rates for installation.
The council’s Republican majority supported the billing change and rate increase. Democrats opposed it.
Democratic Councilor Dawn Miceli said she voted against the sewer billing changes in part because details of how residents could get lower-cost meters hadn’t yet been determined.
“We had no concrete information to provide (well users),” Miceli said.
She said nearly a dozen people called or emailed her about the sewer issue. Most of those people have also complained about the unfairness in the well billing and the burden buying and installing a meter would place on them.
Miceli said the entire sewer plan had been rushed.
“We acted too quickly without doing enough vetting of the issues,” she said.
John Barry, a council Democrat, said councilors weren’t given other options for how to increase sewer revenues.
“There were no other policies presented to the council,” he said. “There were no other options presented to the council.”