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Attorney questions proposed NPU water rate hike

Published May 22. 2012 4:00AM

Norwich - The attorney representing several businesses opposing Norwich Public Utilities' proposed 37 percent water rate increase said the charter requires the City Council to approve the measure before it takes effect.

Attorney Glenn Carberry - who represents the commercial laundry ACLS New England, one of the largest water users in the city - has sent an eight-page letter to members of the Board of Public Utilities Commissioners and the City Council outlining objections to the rate increase.

The utilities commission will meet at 6 tonight at NPU headquarters, 16 S. Golden St., to vote on the budget that includes the rate increases that would take effect July 1.

ACLS officials have said that the water and sewer rate hikes combined would cost the company an additional $110,000 next year.

"At a time when the city is exploring new ways to support existing businesses and improve the business climate, the Norwich DPU is sending the wrong message to employers," Carberry wrote.

Carberry used information presented by NPU officials during a recent workshop with the City Council to calculate that the rates would generate $63 million in revenues over 20 years and would lead to ballooning cash balances for the utilities' water division, a claim NPU General Manager John Bilda disputed.

Bilda said Carberry's calculations are "fundamentally flawed," and the utility must meet state financial conditions to qualify for low-interest loans for $8 million in upgrades to the water system that would be paid for through the new rates.

"If we do not meet these financial conditions, we will no longer be eligible for the funds causing these needed projects to cost our ratepayers more in the long run," Bilda said.

- Claire Bessette

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