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Water board discusses potential Laidlaw usage and fees

December 29, 2010
BERLIN — Berlin Water Works met on Tuesday night with George "Skip" Sansoucy to talk about what Laidlaw would pay for use of the water in Berlin.

Although Laidlaw may be interested in paying less for water rights than the Federal Prison and other customers, Berlin Mayor Paul Grenier said that cannot happen. Already, said Grenier, big customers, such as the nursing homes, complain that they pay too much for water usage. If Laidlaw was granted water rights for less than everyone else — as a bigger user of water, no less — that would cause an uproar. Therefore, said Grenier, Laidlaw needs to pay at least the same amount as the Federal Prison is paying.

Quarterly, the Federal Prison would be paying $170,664. Sansoucy said that this number may be too high for Laidlaw, because they are a corporation, not a government entity, and they have certain fixed amounts they can pay. The group determined that Laidlaw cannot pay less than the Federal Prison.

Currently, Laidlaw plans to have a treatment plant for demineralization at the biomass facility. Roland Viens, the superintendent of Berlin Water Works, suggested that the Laidlaw facility could build a storage tank for water to address the problem of periods of high demand.

The problem is that the capacity Laidlaw will be sold is unused capacity and it needs to be interruptible because at the rates that Laidlaw will be paying, the City will not be able to afford to build extra capacity for the very few times when the proposed high demands cannot be met. Being an interruptible service means that in times of drought, Laidlaw could have a limited water supply.

If Laidlaw wanted to circumvent that problem, they could build a storage tank, so that if the City of Berlin needed to cut off Laidlaw's supply, Laidlaw would have the extra capacity.

Berlin's water plant has capacity for 4 million gallons per day and the well that they have has capacity for one million gallons per day. The City also has a rotating storage of 5 million gallons.

The Federal Prison is projected to use 300,000 gallons per day. Laidlaw is projected to use 1.4 million gallons per day. The City can handle around 1 million gallons in most scenarios, but needs back up in hypothetical situations.

The City uses 750,000 gallons of water per day and almost all of it is metered now and there are hardly any distribution system leaks. The reduced leakage has minimized losses for the Water Works. The Water Works currently has a large amount of debt.

The department received state and federal funding to help them through this fiscal year, but long term, with their debt projected to go down, they may lose some of their funding and therefore they would need Laidlaw to be paying the right amount, so that they could continue to balance the budget. The NHSRL loan the department received has a 50 percent forgiveness on it.

Rates in the City of Berlin have not been raised in 13 years and yet Berlin still has rates that are in the top ten for the state, however there has been progress made from when Berlin had the highest rates.

Martin Lord Osman
Varney Smith
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