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Water-Sewer Issues

On July 29th, 2023, Watertown residents woke up to find that they now owed the City of

Waterbury $18.8 million for unpaid water and sewer bills. For most residents, this was a

complete surprise. In 2013, a 20-year contract with Waterbury for water and sewer fees

expired. A new 5-year contract with Waterbury was created with Waterbury telling

Watertown that after the new 5-year contract expired in 2018, Waterbury would be seeking

the same rate from Watertown that Waterbury residents paid plus 10%, which is the same

rate charged to Naugatuck, Prospect and Middlebury, also customers of Waterbury water

services. The contract expired on June 30, 2018. Prior to the contract ending in June of

2018, Waterbury and Watertown were able to agree on all aspects of the contract except

the water and sewer rates themselves. When the contract expired, Waterbury began billing

Watertown at the new rates. Watertown made the conscious decision to pay Waterbury at

the old 2018 contract rates. It is not known WHO made this decision; there was never a

public vote taken. We do know this: In July of 2018, both the Republican-controlled Town

Council and the Water and Sewer Administration (WSA) went into private Executive

Sessions to discuss the recently expired water and sewer contract with Waterbury. There is

no record as to what was discussed, nor what decisions were made. Waterbury began

charging Watertown 18% interest on the unpaid balance and by July of 2023, interest

charges totaled $4.6 million. In January of 2019, Waterbury sued Watertown for the unpaid

balance. After spending $458,404.11 in legal fees, Watertown lost the suit. Watertown has

since filed an appeal, and it is unknown how much the legal fees for the appeal will cost.

The current Town Council and WSA insist that the water and sewer rates would double or

even triple if Watertown didn’t fight Waterbury in court. What they don’t tell you is that

Watertown (and Wolcott) were paying unusually low rates due to the previous 20-year

contracts, and that they would be even paying higher rates than Waterbury’s current rates if

we purchased our Water from Aquarion or Connecticut Water. They also did not explain

that the fixed portion of most residential bills, set by the WSA, constitutes the majority of

most rate-payers bills and never provided examples of exactly how much the increase

would affect rate-payers, nor how they compared to bills paid by surrounding communities.

At this point, Watertown accrues over $9000 each day in interest charges on the unpaid

balance and continues to pay Waterbury at the 2018 rate. If Watertown loses the appeal,

rate payers could possibly be on the hook for as much as $26 million! The current Town

Council dismisses this with the simple explanation that a bond will be issued to pay the

outstanding balance. They have not shared how much each rate-payer will have to pay to

service the bond, nor how long it will take to pay off the bond (20 or 30 years). After all, it’s

not the town’s money, only the rate payer’s!

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