New London to consolidate Public Works and Public Utilities departments

New London — A proposed plan to consolidate the city's Public Utilities Department with the Public Works Department won't immediately save any money.

But putting the administration of water and sewer services under the umbrella of public works will mean more communication between departments and eventually savings for the city, according to the mayor.

"The efficiencies created by this consolidation will save the city significantly over time," said Mayor Daryl Justin Finizio, who announced the plan Wednesday morning. "As we plan to improve our infrastructure, we intend better cooperation among our infrastructure departments. We don't want to pave a road, only to rip it up months later to do utility work."

Under Finizio's plan, which has yet to be approved by the City Council, public utilities Director Joseph Lanzafame will become deputy director of public works, reporting to public works Director Timothy Hanser.

There will be no layoffs because of the consolidation, Finizio said. Lanzafame and a full-time office worker will remain in their positions.

Barry Weiner, chairman of the Water and Water Pollution Control Authority, said he welcomed the consolidation.

"This is something we've wanted to do for a long (time),'' Weiner said. "It will mean better communication with public works and public utilities. As presented to me, I think it's a good plan.''

The Utilities Department operates separately from the city. It has its own water and sewer budgets, which are supported by usage fees; no property taxes are used to operate the systems. The authority has a contract with Veolia Water, which takes care of the day-to-day operations of both water and sewer. Veolia has a staff of about 40.

The current year's water budget is about $5.8 million, and next year's is estimated to be about $5.9 million. The budget for sewers is about $5.6 million this year and is expected to be about $5.2 million next year.

The water authority board will retain control over all utilities, Weiner said.

The change must be approved by the City Council, which has yet to receive a formal proposal.

"I am encouraged by the positive attitude and constructive solutions that the administration has generated as they make the necessary adjustments for the significant loss of revenue confronting the city," council President Michael Passero said Wednesday. "The council is definitely receptive to this.''

Finizio said he has spoken with Councilor Donald Macrino, the council's liaison to public works, and Councilor John Maynard, chairman of the Administration Committee. He said he would like to see the changes in place by July 1, the first day of the new fiscal year.

Passero said it was unclear how much time the council will need to review the proposal and make amendments to city ordinances.

The authority provides about 6 million gallons of water and processes about 8 million gallons of wastewater each day to New London, Waterford and East Lyme customers.

k.edgecomb@theday.com

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