TORRINGTON – Following several years of disagreement, the City of Torrington and city sewer users outside the city limits, the West Highway Water and Sewer District, may be reaching an agreement. For years, West Highway users had compensated Torrington for using the service, based on an estimation, until the district installed meters to determine exact usage.
Topping the Torrington City Council meeting agenda Monday, Aug. 14, was a presentation by West Highway’s attorney, Reba Epler, who argued the case for reimbursement by the city for over charging since flow meters were installed in 2014.
The West Highway Water and Sewer District service area extends from the area of ZW Mill on the edge of Torrington, along Highway 26 for approximately three miles, and adjoining users. The district bills its own customers and owns its waste water pipe, so according to the district, it should only be paying for the use of the city’s sewer line, only after the West Highway connection.
A city ordinance provided for the service, and following months of discussions, in January 2017, an ordinance change adjusted West Highway’s bill, basing future charges on the actual flow as determined by two meters, purchased and installed by the district. The monthly bill was then based on the actual flow, measured by the two meters, plus a fee for unmetered customers.
However, the district wants to be reimbursed for the excess payments made between the installation of the meters in 2014 and when the city began charging according to the actual flow. The reimbursement amounts to $58,814.50, and includes an interest rate of 10 percent per annum.
At a flow rate charge of $2.51 per 1,000 gallons, West Highway determined it was over-charged $49,807 over 2014, 2015 and 2016. Including the interest due, $9,007.50, the district voucher for reimbursement is $58, 814.50.
In her presentation to the city council on Monday, Epler stated that on March 1, April 5, May 12, June 7, and July 11 of 2017, the district submitted vouchers to the city for over-payment of its bill from May 2014 through December 2016, but the district received no payment and no explanation. The only reply was a letter from Torrington City Attorney James Eddington, stating the city had received the statement for the “alleged balance due.”
He concluded the “City of Torrington disagrees with your position and denies that any overcharge exists.”
Included in her presentation to the council, Epler stated, “West Highway Water and Sewer District demands that this voucher for overpayment be placed on the agenda as an action item for the next city council meeting for a vote to repay the overcharge for the unjustified charges.”
Following lengthy discussion of the history of the voucher claim, which included apparent lack of communication and follow-through, possibly by both parties, the council agreed to study the issue and include it as an action item on the agenda for the Sept. 5 City Council meeting.
Following the meeting, Epler said Monday’s action was a culmination of numerous attempts to get reimbursement from the city.
“Today, we basically let the council know they need to take action on part or all of our claim, because we need to know what to do,” she explained.
“This is our final offer,” she concluded, noting the full payment doesn’t need to be a lump sum, and other methods could probably be worked out. “That’s $2,000 a month they’ve been over charging. Even a small refund per month to individuals could mean a lot.”
Rodney Girmus, a West Highway resident, wrapped up the district’s stand saying, “We have a firm belief that Mike (Mayor Mike Varney) will work with us and make a fair settlement of the over charges for the past two years. The (City’s) staff hasn’t made any effort to enter fair negotiations over the past two and a half years.”
Girmus added that the district uses about 6 percent of the sewer line capacity, and owns its own lines and bills its own customers. The district receives a monthly bill from the city.
“Since January this year, we’ve been paying our fair share,” he said. “We just want to recover the over-payment, and will even forgive the 2013-2014 overpayments.”