Sprague - The town filed suit today against the Sewer Authority of Norwich appealing the authority's decision to raise its rates by 9 percent beginning July 1.
Sprague has become the third party to file a lawsuit against the authority, joining Fusion Paperboard - a mill located in Versailles that produces 100 percent paperboard - and Norwich commercial laundry company ACLS Realty Holdings of New England LLC, which filed suit last week.
In the town's appeal, filed in New London Superior Court, the town contends that the authority's actions impose "unfair and unreasonable fees and charges in connection with the use of a sewage system."
Sprague First Selectwoman Cathy Osten said Wednesday that the town has 63 sewer customers.
"We pay Norwich upfront and then we have a hard time collecting from some customers. Sixteen of the 63 are in arrears," Osten said.
The appeal states that the decision was "illegal, unconstitutional, arbitrary, capricious and an abuse of discretion," for a list of 10 reasons that range from stating that the authority's rates are excessive compared to the rates charged by other communities, to the notion that the authority set the rate without obtaining an independent cost study of the actual costs of providing sewer service.
On April 24, the authority held a public hearing on what was then a proposed 11.5 percent sewer rate increase and discussed the 11.5 percent increase again on May 22 but took no action. During its May 29 meeting, authority members approved the 9 percent increase without public comment or response to a set of new information provided to the authority by NPU.
The town's lawsuit as well as the suit filed by ACLS state that the authority did not follow proper procedures when it reviewed information from NPU officials and approved the rates.
ACLS, one of the largest users in the Norwich Public Utilities sewer and water systems, is challenging the Sewer Authority's vote on May 29 to raise rates by 9 percent starting July 1.
According to their lawsuit, the company now pays about $350,000 per year for the combined usage rates and the "mandatory upgrade charge" the authority enacted in 2010 to pay for upgrades to the sewer treatment plant. The company estimated the new rate hike would cost an additional $40,000 per year.
Attorney Glenn Carberry represents ACLS and said last week that the company is evaluating whether to file an additional lawsuit challenging the water rate increase.
Go online at www.theday.com to see a copy of the lawsuit.