Norwich - The Board of Public Utilities Commission will have a different look after Jan. 15, when veteran board member Alan Remondi will retire after 20 years of voluntary service on the commission.
Remondi, a Democrat, said he decided long ago that he would step down after serving two decades since being appointed in January 1993. The former alderman's current five-year term on the utilities board would expire in February 2016.
"It was enjoyable," Remondi said. "I learned a lot, but someone else must have better ideas than I do. I accomplished what I wanted to accomplish. I thought I did good for the city."
Mayor Peter Nystrom thanked Remondi for his long service and expertise he brought to the commission. The City Council will accept résumés of applicants interested in completing the three years remaining on Remondi's term. Applicants must be Norwich residents of any political affiliation and can send résumés to the mayor's office at City Hall, 100 Broadway, Norwich, CT 06360.
"I think he's going to be missed," Nystrom said. "That's a long time dedicating himself to the service. He is an engineer, so that's helpful for the board."
Remondi has worked for 33 years as a structural engineer at Electric Boat in Groton. He brought technical expertise to the utility board that often faced technical issues involving electric, gas, water and sewer facilities, NPU General Manager John Bilda said.
"He has offered a technical perspective," Bilda said. "He's brought a lot of technical expertise, a technical perspective, which has been very valuable, because a lot of what we do is technically oriented. He added a lot to the commission and to the staff."
Remondi has been critical of Bilda and senior NPU management - as well as his own commission - in recent months for high sewer and water rate increases during a time when residents and businesses can least afford them. Remondi cast the lone vote against a 9 percent sewer rate increase in June, and a month earlier criticized utility officials for proposing a 36.7 percent water rate increase. He eventually supported a plan for an immediate 18 percent increase in July followed by a 16 percent rate hike that took effect Jan. 1.
"I would have John Bilda and senior management give more consideration to what their customers can afford when they go to make improvements," Remondi said. "There's still a disconnect. Maybe that means you space projects out into the future to push off some of the costs. Have more of an idea of what the customers can afford and make improvements that customers can afford."
Bilda said he understands the issue, calling it a "balancing act" between affordability and the need to make infrastructure improvements. He said management looks to the Board of Public Utilities Commissioners for guidance on those issues.
Remondi listed several achievements by NPU over the years that have improved the city-owned utility. He cast one of the initial votes that brought the Stonybrook Reservoir online in 1993 shortly after he joined the utility. The reservoir in Montville was not needed at the time, but officials knew that a larger water source would be needed in the future, Remondi said.
He also voted to implement high-tech electronic systems that alert utilities officials to problems and pinpoint the source the source of power outages or line problems.
A less tangible change has occurred over the years in how NPU relates to the public and its own workers, Remondi said. NPU staff is much more responsive to customers, more focused on customer service and the cross training of employees allows for better advancement into new positions, he said.
"I give them credit for that," he said.