Neighborhood Could Feel Pinch Of Water Bill Hike

BERLIN – Briddelltown neighborhood residents may soon see their water bills go up.

On the recommendation of the Berlin Utilities Commission (BUC), the Berlin Town Council voted this week to make some changes in they way the town handles the water supply to the area, which lies outside town limits.

The BUC asked the council to request that Worcester County install meters for the area, said Berlin Mayor Tom Cardinale. The meters, on pipes at Flower St. and at Seahawk Rd., would be installed at the county’s cost.

The story begins almost two years ago, in July 2005, when the construction of a new county well in the area ran into trouble.

“They asked us for emergency water services,” said Berlin Administrative Director Linda Bambary.

The town provided the emergency water with a 12-month limit. However, that deadline came and went with neither the town nor the county doing anything about it.

Bambary said it slipped through the cracks of the major issues going on last summer, like the controversial electric utility sale and wastewater expansion work.

It became more of a temporary, than an emergency, situation, Bambary said.

She added, “This isn’t supposed to be temporary-permanent.”

This week the Berlin town council decided to follow the BUC’s advice and ask the county to install meters at the two connection points and to pay twice the in-town rate for the water.

“We do not provide water services outside town,” said Bambary.

The doubled rate is customary when the town provides services to anyone outside Berlin’s limits. She added, “We’re not a public utility. We’re a municipal utility.”

Town staff will be meeting with the county next week to work on a solution.

About 45 houses are affected, according to the town. Berlin bills the county for the water, and the county bills the residents. It is not clear precisely how rates will change for the residents. County Public Works Director John Tustin could not be reached for comment.

Either Worcester County finds a way to supply the water itself, or the area faces annexation into Berlin.

“Historically that area has been opposed to annexation,” Bambary said. “I really don’t see the property owners wanting annexation.”

Councilman Dean Burrell asked the staff to investigate the county’s permanent water supply plans for Briddelltown.