Wednesday night, the Waterford Board of Finance questioned a proposed agreement with New London , saying the deal favors New London.
“I’m not trying to scramble this deal, I’m just saying a fair share is a fair share,” Waterford Board of Finance Chairman Ron Fedor said. “Whatever it cost us to run the system, it should be shared fairly with any town.”
The deal, which needs to be ratified by the Waterford Representative Town Meeting and the New London City Council, would have New London pay approximately a third of the maintenance cost for Waterford’s radio system, or about $75,000 per year.
Waterford recently completed for its public safety personnel, and New London needs to upgrade its system per federal mandate by January 1. It can either find a partner like Waterford or build its own radio system, which could cost around $4 million, Waterford First Selectman Dan Steward said.
The finance board Wednesday questioned why in the agreement, New London wasn’t responsible for sharing all costs of the maintaining the radio system’s “backbone.” For example, if power went out generators would have to power the towers of the radio system, and New London should pay some of the cost of the fuel for the generators, Board of Finance Chairman Ron Fedor said. As of the agreement, Waterford would absorb all that cost, Steward said.
Additionally, New London should pay an annual depreciation fee for tapping into the system, so when the system needs to be replaced the city is contributes as well, Board of Finance member Cheryl Larder said. Eventually, the system is going to need to be upgraded or fixed, and a partner should participate in that cost, Larder said.
“We put out the $6.5 million, it doesn’t last forever,” Larder said. “So some day something breaks that cost more, or you have to upgrade to cost more, is there some kind of fund or contribution for the day that that comes?”
Steward said there wasn't.
Additionally, the agreement does not say who would have control over the radio system, and Steward said Tuesday night that he envisioned a governance board with representatives from New London and Waterford on it. When asked Tuesday if Waterford would have more members, he said, “he wasn’t sure.”
Finance board members asked that governance board be set up now, and Waterford should have control of that board.
Precedent/New London Refusing
Several board members said this agreement would create a precedent for other towns to follow if Waterford can bring more towns onto the system, as it plans. This deal needs to be looked at closely, because every following deal will mimic this one, Fedor said.
“Anything we do now, if other towns decide to participate in this, they are going to look at the example we set with New London,” Fedor said. “And the stuff just rolls downhill from there.”
All the Board of Finance members said it was a great deal for New London. Yet Steward said New London almost “walked from it” to join with somebody else.
Larder responded that it was more important to get a good deal for the town.
“I’m totally not opposed to cooperating with the neighbors and I think that is a good thing,” Larder said. “But if they go somewhere else, we are already self-sufficient.”
Not all the Board of Finance members were opposed to the deal. J.W. “Bill” Sheehan, for example, said it was a good deal for the town.
That said, Sheehan said "some modification might be needed to handle the depreciation of the network equipment just like there is a depreciation fund for the Sewer Treatment Plant and for the Sewer System in our agreement with East Lyme," in a Thursday e-mail to Patch.
"If the Town Attorney believes that it is possible to get that into the proposed agreement without much difficulty, then I would be in favor of making it so," Sheehan wrote. "However, if it would hold up the agreement then I have no problem with leaving it to a negotiation in the near future after New London gets moving on their upgrade since time is short. "