Aquarion purchased Village Water Company four years ago,
residents were concerned with the threat of increased water
rates because water would not be supplied by a locally owned
Aquarion, publicly traded on the London Stock Exchange,
explained the need to raise water rates for infrastructure
improvements. The State Department of Public Utility Control (DPUC)
is currently reviewing the request.
A public hearing was held on June 15 at Simsbury High School,
where state Sen. Thomas Herlihy (R-Simsbury) expressed his
concerns. "I believe that these increases are excessive and
that Aquarion's proposal should be denied on that basis
alone," said Herlihy in a letter to Chairman Donald Downs
at the Department of Public Utility Control. "Families and
businesses in this region cannot sustain increases of this
magnitude, especially when you consider that other utilities
like electricity and commodities like gasoline are at an all
For instance, According to Herlihy, there is a significant
disparity between the rate increase in southeastern Connecticut
compared to the increase in the northern region of the state.
Mystic's rate increase is 8.36 percent. "I hope that
Aquarion is not proposing that people in our region subsidize
other areas of the state," said Herlihy. "We will pay
our fair share of the necessary improvements in our towns but
should not be asked to underwrite the costs in other
towns." Herlihy is the ranking member of the legislature's
Energy and Technology Committee.
David Balboni, former chairman of the board of Village Water
Company, was the chief negotiator when Village Water sold to
Aquarion. Balboni served Village Water as a board member for
more than 20 years. "Aquarion took a pledge not to increase
water rates for two years," said Balboni. "Four years
later, they have filed an application."
According to state law, water companies that are privately
owned or publicly traded must file with DPUC in order to raise
water rates. Water companies owned by local municipalities are
not required to file for water rate increases.
With matters of public health, the state Department of Public
Health has control of all water companies. With matters
regarding the environment, the state Department of Environmental
Protection has jurisdiction of all water companies.
"The rate increase was a major concern," said
Balboni. "The Simsbury Fire District wished to acquire
Village Water Company. We had already signed a contract with
Aquarion. We didn't know. We couldn't 'renege' on a contract. As
the negotiator, Aquarion has met every condition of the sale.
They have put in over $3 million dollars back into the system.
The little fire station would not have done that."
According to Balboni, if the Simsbury Fire District purchased
Village Water, they would have had to issue $10,000,000 in
bonds. "The citizens and taxpayers have no obligation
because Aquarion financed it," said Balboni. "Now
Aquarion wants a modest increase. The reason the company was
sold was because it was 90 years old. Expansion was required.
The DPUC would not allow rate increases and drove us to be
acquired. Who was the best acquirer? For the town, it has been
an outstanding situation. Up until now, no water rate increases.
Until now, four times lower than any other rate in the state.
Local control would have been an anchor around the neck of the
Aquarion Public Relations Manager Adrienne Vaughan cited the
$151 million in improvements Aquarion has invested throughout
Connecticut on infrastructure improvements and the low water
rates that Aquarion inherited when they purchased Village Water
Company four years ago as the two primary reasons it is time for
a water rate hike. "The current rate is low," she
said. "The last rate increase was in 1995 before we owned
the water company. We inherited an old system that need
By October, the DPUC will announce whether Aquarion will be
allowed to raise water rates. The DPUC has the authority to
dictate how much if any, the rates will rise.