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Ledyard — Mayor John Rodolico signed a two-year contract with Groton Utilities on Monday, signifying the first time the town has entered into a long-term agreement with the utility since the Water Pollution Control Authority was placed under the Town Council's control.
Financial and organization issues brought the WPCA under the council's authority in 2010. Neither the Southeastern Connecticut Water Authority nor Groton Utilities - the primary contenders for a five-year water contract at the time - would sign a long-term agreement until the
WPCA could assure its financial stability.
Since then, the WPCA has operated on one-year interim agreements with Groton Utilities, the last of which expired last summer. Contracts have run month to month ever since. The WPCA is no longer under the auspices of the Town Council, and a two-year contract is finally in place, representing a continuation of the original five-year plan.
Mike Cherry, chairman of the Planning & Zoning Commission and a member of the WPCA, said the WPCA now has a "good, firm understanding" of its financial and business aspects.
"We're getting to be in much better shape than we were five years ago," he said.
Though SCWA Chairman Ed Monahan asked the Town Council earlier this year to go out to bid again for a water utility contract, Ledyard officials agreed that granting a bid waiver to Groton Utilities this time around maintains the terms of the original arrangement. Cherry said sometime around the 15- to 18-month mark, the town will send out another request for proposals.
Through the Ledyard
WPCA, Groton Utilities serves about 1,200 residents.
"It's an excellent example of the appropriate use of regionalization," Rodolico said. "We are entering into a contract with an agency that is highly efficient, well-equipped and experienced in maintaining and running water systems."
On the administration side, the WPCA office in Town Hall will close July 1. Customer service will come directly from Groton Utilities, which will read ratepayers' meters more frequently, allowing them to monitor water-usage issues on a regular basis.
Ratepayers will also see changes in their billing. Before, meters were read and bills were paid on a quarterly basis, and then only by mail or in person at the WPCA office. Groton Utilities will switch customers over to monthly billing, which can be done online - an undertaking that Cherry said would have been too ambitious for the WPCA alone.
A separate billing contract between the town and Groton Utilities will be in place for one year with a one-year renewal.
And on the town side, instead of paying around $130,000 to keep two full-time WPCA employees, they will pay about $92,000 for the same services from the utility. Those employees will take new positions in Town Hall.
"Hopefully we're moving in the right direction," Cherry said. "I feel our customers are getting good service at the right price."
The ultimate goal, Cherry said, is to have a longer-term contract in place.