The Water and Sewer Commission is authorized under the Montville Town Charter, “to plan and direct the development, financing, construction and operation of such water and sewer supply, disposal and distribution facilities as may be required to properly serve the needs of the Town”.
Wastewater / Collection Treatment and Water Supply
The Town of Montville WPCA services approximately 4,600 sewer connections. The wastewater collection system includes 75 miles of sewerage and 24 pumping stations. The Water Pollution Control Facility (WPCF) consists of preliminary treatment followed by a secondary (biological) treatment and (seasonal) disinfection. The WPCF discharges treated sanitary wastewater to the Thames River (Horton Cove) consistent with controls established in the assigned state and federal permits.
The Town of Montville Water Supply serves approximately 450 connections and is sourced from the Groton Reservoir (piped through the Gales Ferry section of Ledyard and then beneath the Thames River). The distribution system consists of one storage tank, three booster pumping stations, one pressure reducing pumping station, two metering pits, and approximately13 miles of mains.
A total of 12 persons are employed – three persons work in the administration, one works in the laboratory, three persons work within the wastewater facility/collection system while two workers split their time between sewer maintenance and the operator work within the water supply. Finally, two full-time mechanics and one maintainer are available for both water and wastewater repair/maintenance. Daily (operator) onsite coverage is now from 6 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. and weekly onsite coverage has been extended to seven days per week.
The WPCA operates with an Enterprise Fund. An enterprise fund is considered the best practice to promote and maintain long-term financial sustainability for water and sewer activities- a separate accounting and financial reporting mechanism for which utility revenues and expenditures are segregated into a fund with financial statements separate from all other governmental activities.
The FY 2022 WPCA Sewer and Water Budgets (which include the respective CIPs) began on July 1 (approved at the April 12 Town Council Meeting). An analysis of the fund is completed to (a) monitor revenue and (b) monitor expenditures. The cost of providing community wastewater services outpaces the CPI by a factor of 2.5. Rates need to be appropriately set to cover costs.
As part of the WPCA annual reporting, a narrative and value for delinquent accounts is provided to the Town. Two types of reporting are included related to delinquent accounts (assessments and user fees). It is noted that the COVID pandemic caused economic problems for a large portion of Americans and made utility payments difficult.
Blum Shapiro (now CLA CPAs- Town Accountants) began a formal review of the WPCA accounts in July and continued in September. No concerns were raised.
The overall revenue has been good- overall increases in Rand-Whitney billing as well as septic receiving has offset pandemic downturns. Cost reductions for sludge and electricity represent the best overall way to keep the financial health of the utility.
Funds in the water and sewer accounts have been appropriately reserved for capital improvement (for infrastructure) with the development of a 5-year projection. Some bonds, grants and a proposed pandemic relief funds will be considered for current and future asset financing. Depreciation is now listed as a “cost” of doing business.
Overall, asset management improves worker safety, reduces operational risk, as well as improves regulatory compliance and emergency response readiness. The USEPA and CTDEEP promote effective utility asset management based on water quality, operational resiliency and efficiency and infrastructure stability. CIPs from previous FYs are ongoing (e.g. SBR diffusers, grit chamber); while CIP funds can be repurposed- they must remain in capital funding.
The Superintendent is working on an asset identification and subsequent registry recorded in the GIS platform; this initial asset accounting system will permit management of aging equipment and the development of an appropriate CIP through risk modeling. Asset labeling will be improved with markers and tags and signage. Finally, software deemed appropriate will be purchased and brought online to assist in the operators and mechanics work day and work flow for overall better facility management.
Some current wastewater projects are funded by State funds including two bonds and one grant (CTDEEP $5 million Grant-in-Aid for Sewage Treatment Facility Infrastructure Improvements and Upgrades at the Montville WPTF- State Grant Agreement 2017-170491, approved via March 2014 Town of Montville Resolution No. 2014-25). The bonds were for infrastructure improvements within the plant. The grant money is being used for the new chlorine system, new recycling pumps, and grit removal system. Additionally, the aeration systems for SBR-1, 2, 3, 5 and 6 will be replaced. The Mayor requested an extension for the Grant (due to expire in June 2021).
Potential water grant needs were sent to the CTDPH via their Drinking Water State Revolving Fund (DWSRF) Project Eligibility Application. The revolving fund is a channel for low interest loans or grants for investments in water infrastructure. Specifically, grant monies would help pay for the replacement of the Cook Tower water storage facility (tank). A WPCA FY 2021 CIP project allowed for an engineering report to determine a course of action for the water facility and FY 2022 CIP allowed for $1 million to be financed through the grant program. The potential exists to keep the old tower in place for a support for the existing communication equipment.
One bond was paid in July 2018 and another was paid in February 2019. The remaining two bonds will be paid in August 2032 (headworks upgrade) and July 2034 (new emergency power generator).
Purchases are made by encumbrance by purchase order. An encumbrance is the name given to funds that have been reserved when a purchase requisition is finalized. When a requisition is processed, funds are placed aside for that transaction; those funds are no longer available for use in other transactions. The purpose and main benefit of encumbrance accounting is avoiding budget overspending. Encumbrances can also be used to predict cash outflow and as a general planning tool.
Purchases are made following the Town’s recently improved purchasing policy.
Currently, there are 22 wastewater accounts and 7 water accounts with the power supplier New Constellation Energy (brokered by Balanced Rock Energy) and the transmission company is Eversource Energy or VFS (fuel cell). The cost is per kWhr is considerably less than the current market supply cost. The Fuel Cell unit began producing power in June 2020 at near 100% capacity. The onsite generation has led to significant savings by reducing the transmission costs because most of the power used is generated onsite.