Draft Minutes of the November 13, 2017 Water Authority Meeting

Southeastern Connecticut Water Authority

1649 Route 12, Gales Ferry, CT

 

 

 

Present

Authority:  Chairman Edward Monahan, Vice-Chairman Harry Watson, Treasurer Paul Eccard, Barbara Lee Franciosi, Peter Balestracci, Nicholas Mullane and Michael O’Connor. 

Authority Staff:  General Manager Josh Cansler

 

Authority Legal Counsel:  Nick Kepple (Avena and Kepple, LLC)

 

Call to Order

Chairman Monahan called the meeting to order at approximately 5:17 p.m. 

 

Public Comment on any Item on the Agenda – None

 

Approval of Prior Minutes

On a motion of Mr. Eccard, seconded by Mr. Mullane, the Authority approved the minutes of the October 16, 2017 Water Authority Meeting by a vote of 6-0, with one abstention (Mr. Watson).

 

Correspondence - None

 

General Manager’s Report

1.  Emergency Interconnections with Ledyard/Groton Utilities

In conjunction with a $15 million DPH DWSRF (Drinking Water State Revolving Fund) funding package intended to assist with financing the upgrade of the Groton Water Purification Plant, Groton Utilities will install emergency water main interconnections between all five SCWA Ledyard divisions, and the Ledyard WPCA system.  Distribution of the funding package is contingent on having a signed Emergency Water Supply agreement in place between SCWA, Groton Utilities, and the Town of Ledyard. 

 

In August, the Authority approved a motion for the Chairman and General Manager to work together with legal counsel to ensure the language of the agreement best supports the long-term needs and requirements of the Authority.  In September, the Authority approved a motion for the Chairman to sign the agreement once minor SCWA revisions had been made, and all parties had approved the final text. General Manager Cansler stated that on behalf of the Authority, Chairman Monahan signed the final version of the Emergency Water Supply Agreement at the Groton City Hall, on October 20, 2017.

 

2.  Claim by Raspberry Junction Holding, LLC vs SCWA

Raspberry Junction, owners of the Bellissimo Grande Hotel in North Stonington, filed a legal claim against SCWA for losses incurred during the water outage that resulted from the rupture of a pressure tank in 2015.   This claim was forwarded to our insurance company at the time, Gladfelter Insurance.  They hired the law firm of Tang & Maravelis, P.C. in New London to handle the case. 

 

Although Gladfelter’s attorneys proposed a settlement, for less than the amount claimed, Raspberry Junction’s attorneys would not agree to the proposed settlement.  A pre-argument conference was held at the Norwich Courthouse on September 6, 2017, during which the judge highly encouraged both sides to settle.

 

On October 27, 2017, SCWA Attorney Kepple forwarded a letter he received from Attorney Mendoza, representing Raspberry Junction Holding, LLC.  In her letter Attorney Mendoza claims that the Water Conservation charges for the Bellissimo are “onerous” and have cost her client “over $100,000 in excessive water conservation premiums in the past two years”.  The actual charges over the past two years were $41,706.98.  In her letter, Attorney Mendoza claims that the “Authority refuses to address the resulting charges by increasing the size of the meter”.   SCWA’s rate schedule does not include a line item for anything larger than a 3” meter. 

 

Attorney Kepple attempted to discuss the letter with Attorney Mendoza, and did discuss the matter with Attorney Berry from Tang & Maravelis.  On November 6th, Chairman Monahan and General Manager Cansler discussed the matter with Attorney Kepple via teleconference.  Attorney Kepple suggested that as a first step the Authority should run the numbers for a larger meter to determine if it was reasonable to adjust the current rate structure to accommodate 4” meters.  He said perhaps if SCWA was willing to modify our rate structure to accommodate larger customers, then perhaps Raspberry Junction would be more amenable to working with Gladfelter to settle the case.  Attorney Kepple said that although the meter size issue was unrelated to the legal claim by Raspberry Junction, amending our rate structure, to give them the opportunity to add a 4” meter to their facility, would show that SCWA is willing to work with them to settle the case, and in the future. 

 

After Attorney Kepple gave a summary of his discussions with Attorney Berry, he added that Gladfelter was also willing to increase the amount with which they were willing to settle.  Mr. Cansler explained the proposed line item additions to the rate schedule, stating that he had calculated the proposed 4” meter fees and allowances by extrapolating the current numbers for other meter sizes, and the cross sectional volumetric difference between a 4” line and a 3” line.  The members of the Authority discussed the merits of amending our rate schedule to include 4” meters.  Mr. Cansler noted that this would give other existing or future customers the opportunity to install a 4” meter.   

 

Mr. Eccard made a motion to recommend, to the Representative Advisory Board (RAB), the proposed amendment of the current SCWA rate schedule, as presented by the General Manager.  In his motion Mr. Eccard noted that the amendment would add a line item for fees for customers with 4” meters.  He also noted that per RAB Bylaws the Authority could only approve the proposed amendment to the rate schedule after the RAB holds a Public Hearing, and the RAB has the opportunity to provide comment back to the Authority.  Mr. Eccard’s motion, seconded by Mr. Balestracci, was approved by a vote of 7-0.  

 

3.  Update on Miller’s Pond

In August Mr. Rob Schacht, who represents the family that owns Miller’s Pond, presented a memo which included ideas and concepts for SCWA to assist the Miller’s Pond L.L.C. (MPLLC) to move forward with the excavation permitting process, and operation of Miller’s Pond as a regional wholesale water supply.   Mr. Eccard, Chairman of the SCWA Miller’s Pond committee, presented this memo to the Authority at the August meeting.   The Authority agreed, as a whole, that any funds expended on a joint venture, and on excavating and/or developing Miller’s Pond, would have to come from revenues from the pond, or outsides sources such as state or federal grants.  

 

At the August meeting the Authority voted to have legal counsel review the concept memo prepared by the Schacht’s, before making any decisions regarding possible future coordination with MPLLC.  In October, Attorney Kepple informed the Authority that he could not conduct the legal review of the Schacht MPLLC memo for SCWA due to a conflict of interest with his firm.  The Authority agreed to discuss possible law firms to conduct the legal review at the November meeting. 

 

Chairman Monahan asked if there were any recommendations for legal counsel.  Ms. Franciosi recommended Attorney Ronald Goldstein from Colchester.  She said he was interested in providing legal counsel on this issue, and was highly recommended by his peers.  After some discussion the Authority agreed to invite Attorney Goldstein to the next SCWA Miller’s Pond committee meeting.   Mr. Eccard stated that he had recently discussed with Mr. Schacht our hold-up regarding a legal review of the concept memo.

 

4.  DWSRF Emergency Generator Program

Through the DPH Drinking Water State Revolving Fund (DWSRF) program, SCWA received approval for three emergency generator projects.  This program provides a 45% grant for new generators, a 25% grant for replacement of old generators, and no interest loans for the remaining costs.  The three projects, at the Tower, Montville, and Chesterfield pump stations, were awarded to two separate contractors in June, following a public bidding process. 

 

General Manager Cansler stated that they had conducted a final walk-thru of the Montville Generator Project last Thursday, and that the Chesterfield Generator Project was substantially complete.  He added that they were still waiting on the generator for the Tower project to arrive.  Mr. Cansler said that he did not see a problem with completing all three projects ahead of the December 31st completion date.   

 

5.  DWSRF Call for Projects

In late April 2017 SCWA submitted application packages and concept designs for three projects under the State DPH Drinking Water State Revolving Fund (DWSRF).  This program provides low-interest loans, with the potential for subsidization, for eligible projects in the form of principal forgiveness.  Two of the SCWA Projects; Replacement of Tower Division Pump Replacement, and Interconnection of Montville and Seven Oaks Divisions, finished very high, 4th and 5th respectively.  There has not been any indication of how much money will be made available for this program yet. 

 

General Manager Cansler stated that on October 25, 2017 he had attended a Public Hearing at DPH in Hartford on the 2018 Intended Use Plan (IUP) for DWSRF projects.  During the public hearing Mr. Cansler stated he felt the designation of SCWA as a large utility, based on the total number of customers served across all 14 divisions, was not fair because it put SCWA in the same categories as Aquarion and Connecticut Water.  He requested for either the process for determining category designations be re-evaluated, or for each SCWA division to be listed separately for purposes of DWSRF funding.  Mr. Cansler said that our designation was important because only small utilities were eligible for grant money.

 

6.  Water Supply Plan

Per the terms of the September 2015 Consent Agreement with DPH, SCWA is required to submit an updated Water Supply Plan to DPH no later than January 1, 2018.   After soliciting bids from several engineering firms, the Authority selected Lenard Engineering to prepare the Water Supply Plan for SCWA.  General Manager Cansler received a draft copy of the plan in August, and returned it back to Lenard Engineering, with comments, in September.  Mr. Cansler said that a final draft copy of the plan should be ready soon.

7.  Extension of Services on Fairway Drive/Thames Aquatic Center –Ledyard

SCWA continues to work with the Town of Ledyard regarding support of the proposed Thames Aquatic Center project, as well as the proposed extension of Fairway Drive in Ledyard; both of which are in the SCWA Exclusive Service Area.  Although SCWA proposed alternatives to provide water from our Ledyard Center system, DPH granted approval of a well for the Aquatic Center, with the stipulation that they connect to the water main on Fairway Drive extension once it is installed, and that the Aquatic Center use SCWA for all required testing and monitoring of the well.  Mr. Cansler said that there has not been any signs of construction, or well drilling, at the proposed site to date.

 

8.  Town of North Stonington - New Center for Emergency Services/Water Main Extension

The Town of North Stonington is constructing a new Center for Emergency Services, which also involves extending the North Stonington water distribution system 1500 feet.  SCWA continues to work with the construction contractors on both projects, as needed, to assist with planning the main extension and emergency center water system.  Successful pressure tests of the new water main, monitored by SCWA staff, were conducted on August 14 and 28, 2017. 

 

9.  Town of North Stonington School Upgrade Project

SCWA has been working with the Design/Engineer Firm, as needed, to assist with the initial engineering and design of a project to renovate existing facilities, and construct some additions, to the Town of North Stonington Elementary School and Middle/High School.  Currently this project is pending approval of the State Budget, which will determine allocations for schools statewide.

 

10.  DPH Safe Drinking Water Primacy Assessment Fee 

(Attachment #1 – Summary Sheet of DPH Safe Drinking Water Primacy Assessment)

Included in the recently signed State Budget is a new Safe Drinking Water Primacy Assessment to support the State Department of Health (DPH).  Starting in FY 2019 DPH will assess each water utility, or company, a fee based on the number of customers served.  The fees vary from $125 for systems with less than 50 connections, to $4 per connection for larger systems.  The statute states that the assessment may be collected from each customer, and may be included as a separate item on every bill.  The statute also states that the assessment can be adopted in rates without requiring approval through the usual rate revision process.   Mr. Cansler suggested that the Authority start adding the fees to the customer bills starting January 1, 2018.  Mr. O’Connor recommended that since the DPH fee wasn’t effective until FY 2019, then the Authority should wait until the start of FY 2019 to add the charges to the customer bills.  He asked if this would hinder our ability to make the first payment to DPH.  Mr. Cansler said that since annual payments were due in January (50%), and July (50%), that would not be a problem.  After some discussion the Authority agreed to start collecting the fee with the July 2018 billing cycle.  There was no motion required because the Authority is bound by the timeline and requirements of the State Statute.

 

11.  Regional Considerations

a)  State Water Plan and Water Utility Coordinating Committees (WUCC):

The State of Connecticut is currently in the process of developing a State Water Plan for the management of water resources within the state.  In conjunction with State Water Plan, DPH has coordinated the activities of the three Water Utility Coordinating Committees (WUCCs).   The Eastern Connecticut WUCC member meetings are held at 1 p.m. every second Wednesday of the month, at either the Southeastern Connecticut Council of Governments (SCCOG) offices in Norwich, or the Northeastern Connecticut Council of Governments (NECCOG) offices in Killingly.  These meetings are open to the public.  

b)   Request for modification of Exclusive Service Area (ESA).  

(Attachment #2 – Letter from Norwich Utilities requesting modification of SCWA ESA in Montville)

On October 30, 2017 SCWA received a formal request from Norwich Utilities to modify the ESA in Montville.  Currently their reservoir, a water treatment plant, and transmission main are in an area of Montville, next to the Norwich border, in the SCWA ESA.  Norwich Utilities is requesting that the current ESA be modified so that the Norwich facilities in Montville are in the Norwich ESA.  SCWA does not have any facilities, customers, or water mains near the areas.   Norwich is also working with the Montville WPCA regarding a similar issue. 

 

Mr. Cansler said that he had personally discussed this issue with Mark Decker of Norwich Utilities, and he explained how the current ESA boundaries, originally established in 2000, had inadvertently excluded Norwich’s reservoir and facilities.  Mr. O’Connor asked how the ESA boundaries around Norwich’s Montville Reservoir compared to the ESA boundaries around their Colchester Reservoir (Deep River Reservoir).  Mr. Cansler said he was not familiar with the ESAs in Colchester since SWCA does not have any ESAs there.  After some discussion, Mr. O’Connor made a motion to approve the ESA changes requested by Norwich in their letter.  His motion, seconded by Mr. Watson, was approved by a vote of 6-0.  (Mr. Mullane had departed the meeting prior to this vote).

 

b)  SCWA interaction with the Southeastern Connecticut Council of Governments (SCCOG).  Chairman Monahan periodically attends the regular monthly SCCOG meetings. 

 

c)  SCCOG Regional Water Committee’s Technical Advisory Subcommittee (TAS).  SCWA staff participate on the SCCOG Regional Water Committee’s Technical Advisory Subcommittee.

 

d)  General Manager Cansler continues to represent SCWA as a member of the Connecticut Water Planning Council Advisory Group (WPCAG), which meets monthly; and a as a member of the Connecticut Water Works Association (CWWA) Legislative Affairs Committee, which meets monthly between November and June. 

 

Other Business - None

 

Report from Chairman - None

 

Report from Authority Members - None

 

Public Comment – None

 

Adjourn 

On motion of Mr. Eccard, seconded by Ms. Franciosi, the Authority voted to adjourn the meeting at approximately 6:45 p.m. 

 

It was noted the next Authority meeting is scheduled to occur on December 11, 2017, 5:15 p.m. at

1649 Rt. 12, Gales Ferry, CT. 

 

                                                                                                               

 

                                                                                                                Joseph C. Cansler                                                                                                                                                                             Secretary

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

ATTACHMENT 1

 

TO FOLLOW

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

ATTACHMENT 2

 

TO FOLLOW