The Metropolitan District Commission is facing pushback to proposed discounts for those who use large volumes of water.
There was a lot of anger against the proposal at a meeting Monday to discuss the issue. At one point staff had to threaten to have someone removed. It all had the MDC on the defensive, saying that in the end, this will benefit the customer.
This comes on the heels of rate increases. On January 1, everyone started paying more for water from MDC after the company raised rates for customers in all eight municipalities they serve.
“If the MDC properly understood the value of the resource, the scarce resource of water, it would charge more for the use of that water to benefit people who are paying the rates,” said Bradley Klein of Bloomfield.
In a fiery standing room only hearing, MDC customers demanded the water utility charge more, not less, to its largest volume customers.
“You’re raising the rates on low income, moderate income people who can’t afford it to give hundreds of thousands of dollars of break to this big corporation. That’s what this is about? How can you justify that?” one customer asked.
The MDC wants to give a 20 percent discount to industrial customers after they use more than 600,000 gallons monthly. Currently, Niagara Bottling Company is the only customer in the utility’s footprint that could potentially meet that use level. Residential customers said the plan is unfair.
“I used to be proud to be part of the MDC. Now I feel like we’re beholden to somewhat of a criminal enterprise almost who is stealing our water to give it to someone somewhere else,” Bloomfield resident Anne Gustafson said.
The MDC has said people are using less water and they're making less money. They have to pay for a $2 billion state and federally mandated clean water project.
On Monday company officials said the discount is in line with industry standards, and more importantly, would incentivize companies like Niagara to use more water, paying more to the MDC. That money would in turn be returned to all other customers, MDC argues.
“We’re trying to explain to the customers is we’re looking to give a discount to a large user that isn’t presently using that water and if they use that water, that revenue that we receive will be used to reduce the rate for everyone,” Scott Jellison, CEO of the MDC said.
The MDC said last year Niagara met the 600,000 gallon monthly threshold for about half of the year, so it’s unclear if the proposed discount would actually benefit the company at all going forward.
“If we give the water discount, will they use the water immediately? We don’t know. All we know is by giving the rate discount, it doesn’t hurt anyone,” Jellison said.
NBC Connecticut reached out to Niagara Bottling for a response to the meeting, but has not yet heard back.
The MDC has a board meeting scheduled for March 2. A vote on the proposal could happen then, but nothing has been officially scheduled.