Laundry wants state probe of city utility's filings

Norwich - An attorney for the commercial laundry that's challenging a hike in the city's sewer rates has asked a state agency to investigate the Norwich Department of Public Utilities' alleged failure to file annual reports on time.

In a nine-page complaint filed Tuesday with the state Public Utility Regulatory Authority, Glenn Carberry asserts that for the fiscal years 2007 to 2010, the DPU filed annual reports for its water department that were between four and 18 months late each year.

No such reports have ever been filed for the 2006 and 2011 fiscal years, the complaint says. The current fiscal year ends June 30.

Carberry claims the DPU's failure to file the reports on time - as required by state statute - has hampered the department's 11,460 water customers' ability to determine whether a rate hike approved by the city's Board of Public Utility Commissioners was justified.

In April, the board conducted a public hearing on a proposed 37 percent increase in water rates for fiscal 2013, which began July 1. After encountering strong opposition, the board in May approved a 27 percent increase for fiscal 2013 and an adjustment to a 37 percent increase for fiscal 2014. DPU officials said the $2.4 million in additional annual revenue to be generated by the higher rates was needed to meet the operating expenses and capital needs of the utility.

At the time of the public hearing, the most recent annual report on file for the water department was nearly three years old, the complaint says.

When fully implemented, the water rate increases will cost Carberry's client, ALCS Realty Holdings of New England, an additional $71,000 a year, according to the complaint. ACLS currently pays the DUP about $200,000 a year for water, making it one of the department's largest customers.

ACLS is owned by Atlantic City Linen Supply of Atlantic City, N.J., a leading commercial laundry provider for the hospitality industry. The company opened its facility in the Norwich Business Park in 2004 to service Foxwoods Resort Casino and Mohegan Sun.

ACLS last month filed a Superior Court appeal of a 9 percent sewer rate increase imposed by the city's Sewer Authority. The Town of Sprague and Fusion Paperboard, a Versailles mill, also have appealed the sewer rate increase in court.

According to the complaint filed Tuesday, the state Public Utility Regulatory Authority cited the Norwich DPU in February 2006 for failing to file annual reports for fiscal 2004 and 2005. Failure to file the reports by Oct. 31 each year or to seek an extension can result in penalties of up to $5,000 for each offense.

b.hallenbeck@theday.com

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