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Groton - A unanimous vote by 30 people at a freeman's meeting Monday cleared the way for the city to spend $34 million to upgrade and modernize its aging water treatment facility.
The city plans to enter into an agreement with the state under the Drinking Water State Revolving Fund and borrow money for the project. The cost of the project is expected to eventually increase water rates by 20 percent for the more than 40,000 Groton Utilities customers.
Groton Utilities Director Paul Yatcko said that over the coming months he would be discussing with the utilities commission just how to implement the rate increase. He said he hoped to avoid "sticker shock" for customers with an immediate jump and favored gradual increases that could start even before work begins.
Yatcko said a typical customer paying $43 a month for 800 cubic feet of water will eventually see their rates increase to an estimated $52.70 a month. Groton Utilities, with $9.5 million in annual revenues, needs to make up about $2 million a year over the course of the 20-year loan.
It is an opportune time for the upgrades, Yatcko said, since the project placed first on the priority list of state projects under the revolving fund program for fiscal year 2015. Under the revolving fund program, Yatcko said the state will secure a much lower interest rate than the city, saving upwards of $500,000 a year.
Work on the Poquonnock Road plant could start as early as 2015 and take about four years. The plant, drawing from five different reservoirs, distributes about 10 million gallons of water a day during the busy summer months.
The new plant will have a capacity of 12 million gallons a day and include upgrades to treat a variety of chemicals and organic contaminants, meeting the increasingly strict Environmental Protection Agency water purity standards.
The last major upgrade to the plant was in 1960.