Trumbull's Water Pollution Control Authority has approved a controversial change to billl based on "actual" versus "average" water usage.
The decision was made at the panel's March meeting, after several public hearings.
"The first summer quarterly billing will be determined by 'actual' consumption," said Joe Solemene, assistant WPCA administrator.
Residents can opt to install secondary meters for specific tasks, such as irrigation.
"The Trumbull WPCA with cooperation by the Aquarion Water Company is developing a solution for residents primarily with irrigation systems. They will have an option of installing a second water meter used exclusively for outdoor watering. A clear understanding for acquiring a second Aquarion water meter including the costs and regulations for separate billing of this second metered system has not been developed," Solemene said Wednesday.
"Mr. Jeffrey P. Farrell, Director of Business Improvement and Customer Advocate has asked that the residents 'hold off' from contacting Aquarion Water Company until this process has been established," Solemene added.
The Last Hearing
Reaction at the last hearing, in February, was mixed about about the WPCA's changed billing process (still a proposal at the time).
Currently, 8,800 ratepayers pay about $500,000 to cover water usage by 1,000 high-usage WPCA customers such as Bryce Bollert of Fern Circle, who uses an irrigation system.
But Bollert says since he pays for services he doesn't use, the current billing system is fair.
"The system we have in place is the best for now," he said.
Cindy Katske, another irrigation system user, called the proposal "unfair and overly burdensome to homeowners with irrigation systems."
"We will be again be charged for water that doesn't need to be treated," she added.
Customers who install a second meter would pay for installation, while Aquarion would provide the meter. Customers would pay $140 a year for maintenance.
High-usage customers' WPCA bills could rise $400 to $500 if the proposal is approved and they don't purchase a meter. But buying a meter would be optional, WPCA officials stressed.
Katske also objected that the WPCA is appointed rather than elected, so ratepayers don't have representation.
"This I think is inviting a lawsuit or could result in lots of brown lawns. Please go back to the drawing board," she said.
Jon Greene of Topaz Lane said he does not use the sewer system but said the "big winner" would be Aquarion in the second meter proposal.
Town Attorney Dennis Kokenos and Public Works Director John Marsilio defended the proposal, citing how much Trumbull ratepayers have paid Bridgeport already to treat the town's sewage. The sewage treatment contract with Bridgeport expires in June.
Marsilio, who worked for Bridgeport before joining Trumbull, said he negotiated the contract while employed by Bridgeport. It took seven years because the matter ended up in court.
WPCA officials added that Aquarion has been "extremely cooperative and helpful" in considering customers who wash their cars, fill their pools and water their lawns from the house.
Marsilio also downplayed concerns that Bridgeport would try to increase its rates if it loses the extra $500,000 a year it gets from Trumbull ratepayers. A judge would probably question such a request, Marsilio said.
"I don't think there's a judge anywhere that would allow Bridgeport to penalize Trumbull," he said.
Carmela D'Aquila of Valley View Road said she does not water her lawn and conserves water.
Another speaker asked if Bridgeport has the same billing problem as Trumbull. Marsilio replied that of 40,000 dwellings, about 600 have irrigation systems.