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4/5/2019 Sen. Raptakis and Rep. Serpa highlight completion of Auditor General’s report on troubled Coventry sewer project
STATE HOUSE – Sen. Leonidas P. Raptakis (D-Dist. 33, Coventry, East Greenwich, West Greenwich) and Rep. Patricia A. Serpa (D-Dist. 27, West Warwick, Coventry, Warwick) are highlighting the release of Auditor General Dennis Hoyle’s report on the long-troubled Coventry sewer program and the high costs being levied on Coventry’s taxpayers.  The Auditor General completed the report at the request of Senator Raptakis, Representative Serpa, and other members of the Coventry delegation in the General Assembly.

The report lays out a detailed analysis of the operations and implementation of the controversial sewer project and offers several recommendations to rectify concerns about the program, as well as, recommendations to ensure the project’s short-term and long-term financial viability and success.

“I thank Auditor General Hoyle for this comprehensive and factually accurate report about the troubles that have plagued the Coventry sewer project.  Since the program’s inception, I have called for an independent report about the outrageous costs being imposed on Coventry’s ratepayers and the report lays out the problems associated with the program quite clearly.  It also offers many solutions to these issues and I will be fighting for the report’s recommendations to be followed for the sake of Coventry’s residents and businesses,” said Senator Raptakis.

“I am very appreciative of the Auditor General’s report and the thorough examination that was undertaken regarding the costly and frustrating concerns that have arisen surrounding this project.  The costs that have been put upon the ratepayers are unsustainable and ridiculous, so I will be a strong advocate to ensure that the report’s recommendations are followed and put into place,” said Representative Serpa.

“I would like to first thank Senator Raptakis, Representative Serpa, and former Representative Nunes, along with the entire Coventry Delegation for all of their support during this arduous process.  When they heard that the Town Council not only was going to slap astronomical $22,000 to $30,000 sewer assessments on taxpayers, along with a 20-year, 6% note and thousands of dollars in required tie-in fees on ratepayers living in the least economically advantaged area of town, the Coventry Delegation acted swiftly to protect us.  The Auditor General’s report confirmed years’ worth of efforts obtaining facts, documents, and questionable decisions made by the Town Council that I, along with Senator Raptakis and Representative Serpa had previously presented.  The recommendation of notifying residents two years in advance, removing paving costs, removing police details, and reducing the interest rate, will save the ratepayers of this community tens of thousands of dollars each.  The report, which was 46 pages long, in my opinion clearly documents the significant financial issues (the tens of millions of dollars spent and the tens of millions of dollars that still need to be repaid), due to a significant lack of planning and oversight - all for a project that was never approved by the taxpayers in an all-day referendum,” said James LeBlanc, a Coventry resident concerned with the sewer project.

In particular, the Auditor General points to legislation (2019-S 0201 / 2019-H 5798), sponsored by Senator Raptakis and Representative Serpa, which prohibits the town of Coventry from charging its sewage works’ users more than the interest the town has actually paid for its borrowed funds for sewage works’ purposes.

The report states, “The interest rate charged to homeowners has been higher at 6% than the Town’s actual borrowing costs which approximates 3% to 4%. Legislation has been introduced in the Rhode Island General Assembly to limit the interest rate charged to homeowners on sewer assessments. Aligning the Town’s costs of borrowing with the interest charged on the assessments is both appropriate and necessary to lessen the cost of sewer assessments on homeowners and businesses.”

“This is project was already an exorbitant and unnecessary expense for so many in Coventry and the town should not be charging its residents any more than the actual cost of the project.  There are too many families, seniors, and those living on fixed incomes, who are facing true financial harm due to the mandate of this project.  This bill will protect the taxpayers from the large interest rates for a project they do not want in the first place,” said Representative Serpa.

Senator Raptakis and Representative Serpa have long-been champions for Coventry residents who live in sections of Coventry where the sewers have been expanded.  Those residents now have to pay for tie-in fees, use fees, and assessment fees, regardless of whether they possess a fully compliant septic system.

“It is imperative that the report’s solutions and recommendations are listened to and followed so that our town’s sewer system works for the ratepayers rather than driving them out of their homes.  This report also cost nothing to the taxpayers, unlike the Citrin Cooperman report which cost taxpayers $35,000 and offered no solutions to the ballooning problems associated with this project.  We are too far along with the project to turn back now, but hopefully, with the Auditor General’s report, we can correct the errors in implementation that have occurred and establish this project for future success,” concluded Senator Raptakis.

The Auditor General’s report can be found here.

For more information, contact:
Andrew Caruolo, Publicist
State House Room 20
Providence, RI 02903