Conn. town fights to collect $1.6M in sewer bills from DOC
Department of Correction has refused to negotiate with the town over the unpaid bill
By Luther Turmelle
New Haven Register
CHESHIRE — The town has gained a powerful new ally in its battle to collect $1.6 million in unpaid sewer bills from the Department of Correction.
The legislature’s Judiciary Committee Monday waived a one-year statute of limitations for filing claims with the state’s Office of the Claims Commissioner so that the town can file a claim for what it is owed, Town Manager Michael Milone told the Town Council Tuesday night. The Department of Correction has refused to negotiate with the town over the unpaid bill, forcing Cheshire officials to slap a lien on the sprawling prison complex off of Route 10 and Jarvis Street in June of last year.
While there is no guarantee the Claims Commissioner’s office will agree with the town’s claim and order the Department of Correction to pay what it owes, Milone said he still felt vindicated by the Judiciary Committee ruling.
“They (members of the committee) said that nobody should be treated that way,” Milone said. “And yet we were.”
Milone said he and Democratic Councilwoman Liz Linehan testified about the problem before the Judiciary Committee last week.
Liens normally are used to prevent property from being sold or transferred until the owner pays a debt that is owed. Although it is unlikely that the state will sell the prison complex, Milone has said the lien still is an appropriate way to address the issue because it is consistent with what the town would do with any property owner that owed money on the sewer bill and it protects the amount owed by getting it on the legal record.
The $1.64 million represents the amount owed the town because a meter at the prison under-reported the amount of wastewater discharge over a period of at least nine years.
Department of Correction officials weren’t available for comment on Tuesday regarding the Judiciary Committee’s actions.
The town has had a strained relationship with the Department of Correction in recent years because how much capacity it uses in the town’s wastewater treatment system, which is currently undergoing a modernization.
Cheshire officials sued the agency in July 2012 to force a renegotiation of the agreement the community has with the state for hosting three prison facilities. At issue is the town’s desire to have the state pay up to 20 percent of the cost of a $31 million wastewater treatment plant upgrade.