Frank Chan Proposes New Formula for Assessing Sewers Fees in Sound View

in Beach Communities/WPCA

OLD LYME — At the October 8 Water Pollution Control Authority meeting, Vice-Chair Frank Chan proposed a new formula to calculate Equivalent Dwelling Units for the Sound View Beach that would narrow the difference between minimum and maximum assessments.

“Our basic premise is every dwelling will receive [the] sewer as a benefit and larger sized dwellings with a larger capacity generate [more] wastewater and therefore will be assessed a larger amount,” he said. “The minimum to maximum ratio should be small, should be reasonable, instead of 10 to one [it] should be two or three to one.”

Under new benefit assessment algorithm, “the total cost for each dwelling is the base cost plus the dwelling size variable cost,” stated the WPCA’s report.

Sound View Beach comprises 236 dwellings. The project is estimated to cost $9.5 million, offset by a 25 percent Clean Water Funds grant, bringing the cost to Sound View property owners to about $7.44 million.

Each property will be assessed a base amount of $21,000 that includes a $15,000 assessment fee and a $6,000 sewer hook-up fee,

That base amount will account for $4.956 million of the $7.44 million, Chan said. The remaining $2.484 million will be paid based on a property’s capacity to generate wastewater.

Each property will be assigned a variable factor based on square footage. The number of units in Sound View for each size is shown in parentheses:

  • Less than 500 square feet = 0x (27 units)
  • 500 – 1,000 square feet = 1x (93 units)
  • 1,000 – 2,000 square feet = 2x (89 units)
  • 2,000 – 3,000 square feet = 3x (15 units)
  • 3,000 square feet and above = 4x (12 units)
  • Total adjusted units = 364

The new formula divides the $2.484 million by total adjusted units (364), yielding a quotient of $6,824 — the new cost adjustment per unit.

The cost for each dwelling is determined by the base cost ($21,000) plus the property’s multiplier x $6,824.

“As you can see the larger dwellings bear more of the cost, so we’re really trying to take care of the people with the smaller size dwellings that are less than 1,000 square feet,” he said. “The conclusion is we have updated our calculations to minimize the spread and also make it easier for us to explain the formula.”

Dimitri Tolchinski, a commission member, objected to the formula because square footage does not always correlate with usage.

Dividing $7.44 million by 236 units would cost about $31,525 each. Douglas Wilkinson, commission treasurer, said Chan’s formula mitigates costs for smaller properties but also helps those with larger properties, who would have paid as much as $90,000 under the old formula.

“Without a meter, there’s no way to know what everyone’s usage is,” Wilkinson said. “This is a logical way to distribute cost without having $21,000 for some people and $90,000 for others. It squeezes that range down and it’s as fair as we can come up with.”

James Birge, commission alternate, said he preferred a method where every property owner paid the same amount and a set fee for usage, similar to the Point O’ Woods model.

The Point O’ Woods model does appear to be a much simpler method, but Sound View has more diverse dwellings sizes, said Rob McCarthy, commission member.

Steve Cinami, commission member, praised Chan’s formula and said, “There will always exceptions that people will not like.”

Richard Prendergast, commission chair, said a handful of properties, including several vacant lots, will need to be assessed using other methods, such as frontage. Only building lots that were previously approved for a septic system will be approved for building permits after sewers are installed, he said.

“I think commercial properties fall outside of any algorithm,” he said.

Chan said commercial properties, such as restaurants, would be assessed under a separate formula that will include for additional amount to account for the volume of wastewater.

During the public comment period, Mary Daly of 9 Portland Ave., brought a petition containing 61 signatures and asked that a meeting be set up to answer Sound View residents’ questions.

“I’ve been to four meetings and heard no answers,” she said. “This is my petition and it has 61 signatures and I understand in this town you need 50 to force a meeting … and we’d like to have a meeting as soon as possible.”