OLD LYME — Connecticut Water Company’s infrastructure upgrades in the Town of Old Lyme’s Sound View Beach neighborhood will be paid for through a rate adjustment surcharge program designed to distribute the costs of smaller capital projects, like Sound View’s promised improvements, among all of the company’s customers statewide.
The Water Infrastructure and Conservation Adjustment (WICA) program is not a grant but it is a low-cost way to spread out project costs, said Michael A. Caron, Commissioner of the Public Utilities Regulatory Authority (PURA), by phone Friday.
“The charges are periodic as opposed to the old way… when you would get a lot of ‘rate shock,’” he said. “The WICA program is intended to do these projects more piecemeal and so there will be a charge on people’s bills but they’re relatively modest, much more manageable and people really appreciate how it’s been executed.”
The surcharges are limited to no more than 10 percent over a two year period, said John W. Betkoski III, PURA Vice Chairman, who joined Caron on the phone Friday.
During the months leading to Old Lyme’s referendum to bond $9.5 million for the sewer project, the water project has been explained to residents as a no-cost upgrade. The project is instead a funded by a modest rate increase.
“Depending on the cost of the project, it could be a couple of bucks a month for 24 months or whatever it takes to pay off the project,” Betkoski said.
Connecticut Water Company (CWC) is owned by Connecticut Water Services (CWS), which serves about 325,000 residents across 56 towns statewide. According to its website, the company currently has WICA projects in Coventry, Ellington, Enfield, Essex, Farmington, Griswold, Guilford, Killingly, Mansfield, Naugatuck, Tolland and Vernon-Rockwell.
Contingent on merger, not on sewers
The Sound View upgrades are contingent on conditions contained in a proposed merger between San Jose Water and Connecticut Water Services, which owns Connecticut Water Company and two other subsidiary water companies.
On Wednesday, Caron, Betkoski and PURA Chair Marissa P. Gillett, are scheduled to vote on a draft final agreement of the proposed merger. The merger has been the subject of months of public hearings following prior rejections of the original proposal. The merger now contains 80 commitments to protect the public interest.
The proposal includes a commitment to completing improvements to the Sound View Water System by Dec. 31, 2020. The project is not contingent on the town’s sewer project for the neighborhood.
“This project doesn’t have anything to do with the sewer system,” said Betkoski. “We’d like to coordinate it if they’re putting in a sewer system… because you want to just dig up the road once, but sometimes it doesn’t work out timewise.”
Caron concurred that “there’s no way to coordinate it” with the sewer project, which is expected between 2021 and 2024.
“They’ve been waiting a long time so we’d rather get the system taken care of sooner rather than later,” said Caron.
Betkoski agreed, “We’ve got to get them water.”
The water project will lay about 2,400 linear feet of pipe at a depth of five feet, required for year-round pipes, replacing seasonal pipes at shallower depths. The original pipes were installed by Sound View Water Company, which Connecticut Water Company later purchased.