Berlin Council Approves Middletown into Mattabassett – But Not Without Concerns
Change is looming that would make Middletown a voting member of the Mattabassett Regional Wastewater Authority, but David K. Evans is concerned the change could dilute the town’s voice and have negative impacts on the system and customers.
The council voted last week 5-1 with David K. Evans opposed and Eric Buhrendorf absent, to approve the inclusion of Middletown into the district.
“As we settled in to negotiations, we realized this was as well as we could do,” said John S. Dunham, vice chairman of the commission. “The bottom line is we looked at the dollars and cents. I think at this point, this is everything we can do to help the citizens. Anything to keep user fees down helps everyone out.”
Entry into the district is dependent on approval from Berlin, Cromwell and New Britain. Berlin and Cromwell have approved the motion and New Britain was expected to vote on Middletown’s membership this week.
If approved, Dunham said Middletown would pay a $13 million entry fee to join into the system. The city is currently served in part by the Mattabassett District and officials were encouraged to provide membership by the state after Middletown’s water treatment facility was found to need extensive repair and upgrade.
Evans, however, remains concerned that the council had little input on the matter – it had not voted on the issue prior to last week, according to records – and further expressed concerns that the make up of the commission would dilute the voice of local residents on the district’s board of directors.
“On representation side, there are a large number of concerns,” Evans said. “The biggest concern is that a community that has, and had tried to run their own plant, will come in with more voting direction than other communities that have run this quite well for over 50 years.”
Under the language of the new agreement, Middletown would have four voting members that would be selected to join the board of directors. New Britain has four voting members currently, based on a make-up provided using 2010 census data, while Berlin and Cromwell each have three.
Evans further said that while he believes it is important to look for ways to reduce user fees – the $13 million will go towards offsetting the costs of a $94 million system upgrade – he does not believe $13 million alone is a large enough fee to allow Middletown to join.
He was also clear in stating that the Berlin Town Council never voted on the matter, instead stating they would revisit it later, before a final proposed agreement was drafted.
Mayor Adam Salina, however, said the deal is the best one for the community and everyone involved.
“Part of negotiations, everyone walks away with some happiness and some unhappiness. That what a negotiation is,” Salina said. “I don’t think appropriate to second guess all negotiations and the work over the last five years. That would be foolish and short-sighted.”
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