Coventry Town Manager asks Town Council to reevaluate sewer ordinance

COVENTRY, R.I. (WPRI) – The town of Coventry is asking the Town Council to reevaluate the sewer ordinance that has some residents concerned.

These concerns focus on the construction of new sewer lines across town. Residents who live in sections where sewers were expanded will now pay for tie-in fees, use fees and assessment fees, regardless of whether they have a compliant septic system.

“What we have heard is that residents don’t have the financial means to take on this encumbrance and that it is an undue hardship on them,” Town Manager Graham Walters said.

Residents created a petition asking the town to pause sewer construction until Town Administrators provide all residents with estimated costs to each homeowner and all the rules, regulations and requirements of all residents. The petition also calls for Town Council to hold a town-wide vote that allows each resident to choose to approve or deny the sewer projects. More than 800 residents have signed the petition as of Thursday afternoon.

Walters said he consulted with the Town Council and is recommending the review of the Sewer Facilities Plan before moving forward with more sewer development projects. He also said Town Council will look into an appropriate place to stop construction of the sewer line on Hazard Street until a resolution is created.

“In 2016, when the then Town Council agreed to begin construction again of the sewer system, they never had the intention of this project being a hardship for the residents, and did not embark on continuing with the sewer facilities plan to mandate residents sacrifice more than what they are already being asked through town, state and fire district taxes,” Walters said.

This decision comes after two public meetings where residents voiced concerns with the sewer ordinance. On Oct. 9, two Coventry councilwomen shared their support for concerned taxpayers and multiple legislators signed a petition asking Town Council to reconsider the ordinance.

In addition to these recommendations, Walters said the Town will look into including socioeconomic data to its plan so the staff and elected officials can consider this when making the decision on which areas of town to sewer in the future. The Town’s sewer engineer, Weston and Sampson, will also be surveying the areas of town within the plan to see where residents want sewers and provide information gathered to the town when they begin to consider developing future sewer infrastructure.

“Hopefully this pause and review period will allow everyone to take a step back and bring regular order and decorum back to the Town,” Walters said. “This will also allow the Town to incorporate the recent feedback it has received from its residents to make improvements in how we communicate the build out of sewers and other related assistance information to the public, as well as changes to the sewer ordinance that have been promoted.”

The town will be holding a Q&A sewer meeting with the Town Manager on Oct. 16 at 6 p.m. at Coventry High School. Concerned taxpayers can attend this meeting to learn more about the plans for the project moving forward.