Draft Minutes of the December 11, 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

 

Call to Order

Chairman Monahan called the meeting to order at approximately 5:15 p.m. 

 

Public Comment on any Item on the Agenda – None

 

Approval of Prior Minutes

On a motion of Mr. Eccard, seconded by Mr. Balestracci, the Authority approved the minutes of the November 13, 2017 Water Authority Meeting, by a vote of 7-0.

 

Correspondence - None

 

General Manager’s Report

1.  Claim by Raspberry Junction Holding, LLC vs SCWA

(Attachment #1 – Proposed Rate Amendment Schedule)

Raspberry Junction LLC, 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 proposed a settlement, Raspberry Junction would not agree to the proposed settlement. 

 

In late October the attorney representing Raspberry Junction Holding sent a letter to our attorney (Nick Kepple) claiming that SCWA’s rate structure was resulting in “onerous” water conservation charges for the Bellissimo, because our rate schedule does not include a line item for 4” meters or higher.  SCWA Attorney Kepple, and Attorney Berry from Tang & Maravelis, both felt that modifying the rate structure to add a line item 4” meters might encourage Raspberry Junction to settle the case with Gladfelter.  General Manager Cansler felt that regardless of the case, adding a 4” meter line item to the rate structure would give other existing, or future customers, the opportunity to install a 4” meter.  

 

After the members discussed the merits of amending the rate schedule, the Authority approved a motion at the November meeting to recommend, to the Representative Advisory Board (RAB), a proposed amendment of the current SCWA rate schedule, to add a line item for fees for customers with 4” meters.  The Authority 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. 

General Manager Cansler mentioned that Attorney Kepple had informed him and the Chairman a few days before that Gladfelter had offered a new settlement, which Raspberry Junction had rejected.  Raspberry Junction counter-offered with a higher figure that Gladfelter had rejected.  Attorney Kepple stated that modifying the rate structure at this point was not relevant to the case if the two sides could not settle. 

 

Mr. Cansler stated that in the meantime the fire suppression contractor for the North Stonington School Upgrade project had contacted him about using a 4” meter on their project.  Mr. Mullane stated that he felt a 4” meter was overkill on that project.  Mr. Cansler said he fully agreed, and that he had expressed that same thought to the fire suppression contractor.  Mr. Eccard recommended that the Authority continue with the rate schedule modification, to add a line item for 4” meters, as planned.  The rest of the Authority agreed.  

 

2.  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.  At the November meeting the Authority agreed to reach out to Attorney Ronald Goldstein of Colchester to conduct a legal review of the concept memo, at the suggestion of Ms. Franciosi. 

 

General Manager Cansler sent Attorney Goldstein the Schacht’s concept memo, as well as excerpts of recent Authority meeting minutes, to give him additional background on this issue.  After reading the documents provided, Attorney Goldstein responded that he was not the right attorney to provide legal counsel in this case.  In his opinion this case encompasses a variety of legal aspects, and that he alone does not have the legal expertise to adequately address all aspects of this case. 

 

The Miller’s Pond committee met again on December 11, 2017 to discuss legal counsel and possible courses of action moving forward.  Committee Chairman Eccard explained to the Authority that Ms. Franciosi had recommended Attorney Catherine Marrion from the firm Walker Smith & Palmer in New London for legal counsel on the Miller’s Pond issue.  Ms. Franciosi said that Attorney Marrion’s firm had conducted an internal legal conflict review and had determined that they had no legal conflicts with representing SCWA regarding Miller’s Pond. 

 

Mr. Eccard recommended that the Committee meet with Attorney Marrion to discuss her firm’s qualifications and fees.  Mr. Mullane made a motion to for the Miller’s Pond Committee to meet with Attorney Marrion to discuss her interest and qualifications.  His motion, seconded by Mr. Watson, was approved by a vote of 7-0.  Mr. Cansler said he would reach out to Attorney Marrion and coordinate a meeting with the committee.

 

 

3.  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 2017, following a public bidding process. 

 

General Manager Cansler stated that the Montville Division Generator Project had been completed in mid-November, and the new Chesterfield Division generator was operational and complete, with the exception of some damaged exterior panels, that needed to be replaced by the contractor.  He said that the Tower Division generator had been installed the previous week, and that the contractor was wrapping up the final connections and wiring.  Mr. Cansler did not see a problem with completing all three projects before Christmas.   

 

4.  Emergency Interconnections with Ledyard/Groton Utilities

In October SCWA signed an agreement with Groton Utilities and Ledyard to install emergency water main interconnections between all five SCWA Ledyard divisions, and the Ledyard WPCA system.  These projects will be fully funded by Groton Utilities in conjunction with a $15 million DPH DWSRF (Drinking Water State Revolving Fund) funding package they received to assist with financing the upgrade of the Groton Water Purification Plant.  General Manager Cansler stated that SCWA is working with Groton Utilities on the design and engineering of the emergency interconnections, which are expected to be installed next year.   

 

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. 

 

In October General Manager Cansler attended a Public Hearing at DPH in Hartford on the 2018 Intended Use Plan (IUP) for DWSRF projects.  To date, there has not been any indication of how much money will be made available for this program. 

 

6.  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 not only has there not been any signs of construction, or well drilling, but that a new “For Sale” sign had recently appeared on the proposed site.  Ms. Franciosi asked if the permit for the well only applied to the Aquatic Center, or any facility that might be developed on the site.  Mr. Cansler said that he would check on that.  He also stated that he would check on the latest status of the Aquatic Center development.

 

7.  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 by December 13, 2017.

 

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. 

 

At the October meeting the Authority approved a formal request by the Town of North Stonington to waive the System Development Fee, based on the fact that the Town had done all of the work to get the water line extended to the new Emergency Services Center, and had made extensions in the past, which the Town had handed over to SCWA at no cost.  Mr. Mullane said that the water main extension was complete, and that the building frame of the new emergency services center was almost complete. 

 

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.  Mr. Mullane stated that bonding had been approved and that the town was wrapping up all required paperwork to complete the bond.

 

10.  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).  

At the November meeting the Authority approved a motion to modify our ESA in Montville as requested by Norwich in a letter dated October 30, 2017.  Norwich Utilities requested a modification because their reservoir, a water treatment plant, and their transmission main were in SCWA’s Montville ESA.  Norwich Utilities requested 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. 

 

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

Mr. O’Connor stated that his term ends at the end of the year, and due to changes at his workplace that might impact his ability to fully participate in future Authority meetings, he did not intend to seek another 5-year term on the Authority.  Mr. Cansler said he would send a message to the Representative Advisory Board (RAB) Chairman and Appointments Committee Chair.  The RAB Appointments Committee requests/seeks nominees for Authority vacancies, which are voted on by the RAB.  Mr. O’Connor said he would continue to serve until his replacement was appointed.

 

Public Comment – None

 

Adjourn 

On motion of Mr. Eccard, seconded by Ms. Franciosi, the Authority voted to adjourn the meeting at approximately 6:00 p.m. 

 

It was noted the next Authority meeting is scheduled to occur on January 8, 2018, 5:15 p.m. at

1649 Rt. 12, Gales Ferry, CT. 

 

                                                                                                               

 

                                                                                                                Joseph C. Cansler                                                                                                                                                                             Secretary

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

ATTACHMENT 1

 

TO FOLLOW