UPDATE: The MDC board of directors meeting for Dec. 2 has been canceled due to snow. The proposed 2020 budget has been rescheduled for 5 p.m. on Monday, Dec. 16.
The Metropolitan District, which provides water to a dozen cities and towns in the Hartford area, is asking for another rate increase from users, blaming lower revenue and higher costs.
“I thought it was absolutely ridiculous. We’re already paying enough for the water,” said East Hartford resident Kate Molloy.
MDC points out that if this proposal is approved, water bills will go up just over six percent or $5.25 per month for their members. However, it’s the 14 percent water rate hike that’s catching their customers off guard.
“It seems like every year they continue to go up and even when you’re using the same amount water,” said Kristen Amato of West Hartford.
Amato has only owned her West Hartford home for two years, but if this latest hike passes, her water rate will have risen 25 percent since she moved in; 11 percent at the beginning of 2019 and 14 percent in 2020.
“I think that it’s something that really needs to be looked at because costs are always increasing and it can impact affordability for everyone,” added Amato.
MDC CEO Scott Jellison told NBC Connecticut over the phone that 80 percent of the increase comes from the federally and state mandated clean water project, a $2 billion upgrade to the state’s sewage system. He claimed that project alone has doubled their customers’ bills in the last decade.
“If we have to pay it, we have to pay it,” said David Fink. “I think the MDC does a good job.”
However, the longtime West Hartford homeowner questioned the steep increase.
“I don’t like to see increases ever but I’m not really sure yet whether it’s justified,” he added.
“I do think there needs to be more transparency surrounding costs,” said Amato.
Transparency is behind the new legislation state lawmakers are crafting. Legislators on both sides of the aisle are calling for an independent review of the MDC’s budget.
“It’s outrageous and it’s unsustainable,” said State Senator Derek Slap, a Democrat who represents West Hartford.
If approved, the rate hike will impact residents in MDC’s eight member towns plus four other communities that purchase water from the utility.
“Nothing goes down, everything goes up,” said Fink. “I realize costs are costs, on the other hand, 14 percent is a fairly steep increase.”
“We don’t get raises like that, so why should they,” added Molloy.
Jellison said people are using less water, both as a conservation and a cost-saving measure.
“You’re looking at a huge increase that’s gonna hit people of modest incomes, senior citizens, families that are just barely making ends meet,” said State Representative Tom Delnicki, who represents South Windsor.
Delnicki, a Republican, and Slap are crafting bipartisan legislation. They want independent regulator PURA, which oversees rate hikes for Connecticut utilities, to be tasked with overseeing the MDC as well. The MDC doesn’t have that oversight currently, because it is a quasi-governmental body.
The rate increase will be voted on next month. Lawmakers don’t go back into session until next year. However, Slap hopes it will still have an impact on the vote this year and in the future.
“The threat of legislation. I hope that is going to stop this right in its tracks,” said Slap.
Jellison pointed out that other water utilities PURA oversees like CT Water have a higher water rate than MDC. He said, if the MDC doesn’t spend money now, they’ll be spending even more later, on emergency repairs.
The MDC board was expected to vote on the proposed rate hike December 2, but that meeting was canceled due to snow. The board meeting on the proposed 2020 budget is rescheduled for 5 p.m. on Monday, Dec. 16 If approved, it will take effect January 1.