Black Rocker around town John Marshall Lee shares this commentary about Marilyn Moore’s legislative oversight of the collection practices at the Water Pollution Control Authority.
HISTORY: For several years complaints were raised from Bridgeport property owners about the collection efforts of the Bridgeport WPCA regarding outstanding unpaid sewer bills with fees. If they were not paid a house and its value could be lost through foreclosure … true financial loss. And that happened in some cases even when there was equity in the home and no mortgage. Greater Bridgeport NAACP Housing Chair Johnny Ray Moore, having encountered firsthand WPCA collections efforts, worked with local legislators, and shared information with Senator Marilyn Moore about the abuses in the system. As a result the City Council began meeting and talking up WPCA issues about the process and how difficult, expensive, particularly unfriendly and sometimes illegal collection process to everyone but the lawyers so involved.
The City Council dealt with the issue by passing an action by which a moratorium on foreclosures would be enforced for six months in 2018 and we are in that period today. During that time it is particularly important for those with a WPCA billing issue to reach out and work out a way of handling their personal issue.
Meanwhile, State Senator Marilyn Moore, after listening to the local voices sought a solution in the Legislature and championed Substitute House Bill No. 5509, An Act Concerning Water Pollution Control Authorities. The bill passed both the House and Senate and was signed by Governor Dannel P. Malloy on June 14, 2018 to be effective July 1, 2018. The bill did several things: placed a one-year moratorium on WPCA foreclosures, authorized PURA to oversee WPCA effective July 2019 and to lower interest rates on such amounts outstanding. WPCA customers in cities with a population of not fewer than one hundred thousand people will incur an annual $4 surcharge on their WPCA bills. This impacts two cities; Bridgeport and Stamford. The annual surcharge will assist PURA to develop plans to transition WPCA to PURA.
Governor Malloy expressed concern about a number of issues in terms of conforming existing municipal practices with the new law inside PURA that has no infrastructure at the moment.
A reader may wonder how this is a win for local WPCA ratepayers. Previous to the bill a property could be lost if foreclosed upon. PURA has no power to foreclose, so that threat appears to have been successfully removed from the future of Bridgeport property owners. However, it is important to see what is done locally by the WPCA, the Bridgeport City Attorney office and the collection process ongoing, to adjust, so that no unintended result ensues. We owe a special thanks to Johnny Ray Moore for his efforts in bringing these complex issues to light and a special thanks to Senator Marilyn Moore and other local legislators for the passage of this bill by Governor Malloy.
Local hearings to be held soon offer citizens an opportunity to submit letters, listen for more detail, or ask questions. Keep a lookout!! Time will tell.