Welch: State $13K Behind in Sewer Bill Payments
The unpaid tab spans 27 months.
Hampton officials aren't happy that the state has "refused" to pay 27 months of sewage bills, although they say they won't take a hostile approach despite that frustration.
Town Manager Fred Welch said Monday that the town recently learned that the state hasn't paid roughly $13,000 in sewer bills for the connection at the Interstate 95 liquor stores.
Welch said he wants to stay "friendly" through the process and avoid taking the state to court, although he said it isn't something he'll take lightly because the state is "not making any effort to resolve the issue."
"We're trying to work with the state instead of being adversarial," said Welch. "We could take them through the court system, although we don't want to do that. It would be a waste of taxpayers money. We're looking for an avenue to resolve this in an amicable way."
The liquor stores, located on opposite sides of I-95, connected to the sewer line in June 2009 after the facilities' sewer system "massively failed," said Welch. He said the town didn't want sewage to seep into the nearby Taylor River, and officials drafted rules to govern the nature of the connection and the billing.
Welch said the state "hasn't followed those rules," though, as they haven't paid a bill spanning from June 2009 to September 2011. They have paid two quarterly bills over the last several months, but Welch said they have refused to pay the $13,000 bill because of disagreements over the overall usage.
The town has used an estimated rate based on state rest stops to calculate the liquor stores' usage, as Welch said the sewer meter at the facilities has been broken for quite some time and the state has refused to allow the town to replace the broken unit with a more accurate water meter.
Welch said Hampton would work with the state to adjust the bill if in fact the estimated usage is off. He said one of the most "frustrating" things is the fact that the state is both unhappy with the charges and unwilling to take measures to prove the actual usage.
Multiple selectmen agreed.
"Quite frankly it all sounds kind of arrogant to me," said Chairman Dick Nichols.
Selectman Jerry Znoj suggested the town "shut the lights off" on the state.
Welch said the bill disagreement will now be forwarded to state Sen. Nancy Stiles, R-Hampton, whom Welch said is a "very nice and effective person" and is "respected" in state government for her ability to get things done amicably.
He said this hopefully will bring resolution to the problem, otherwise Hampton will have to evaluate its next steps. Welch said he has no reason to believe Stiles won't be able to help resolve the problem, though.
The town and its residents have been involved in several disagreements with the state lately, including one based on a fear that the state-operated retail shop at Hampton Beach competes with privately-owned concession stands.
Welch also said this sewer bill disagreement is one of the main reasons why he asked selectmen to recently accept a new quaterly billing system that allows the town to charge $1.53 per 1,000 gallons of discharge for state owned properties.