State Sen. Derek Slap (D-West Hartford) has introduced a bill to increase oversight of the Metropolitan District Commission.
A bill introduced by state Sen. Derek Slap (D-West Hartford) to tighten restrictions on the way that the Metropolitan District Commission operates received widespread support at its public hearing last week, and the bill could come up for a vote in the legislature’s Planning and Development Committee in the next few weeks.
Senate Bill 966, “AN ACT CONCERNING THE METROPOLITAN DISTRICT OF HARTFORD COUNTY,” would require annual audits of the MDC’s books by state auditors, create a task force to examine the District’s operations, and require the District to adopt the same code of ethics that Connecticut cities and towns operate under.
The Metropolitan District Commission (also known as the MDC) is the largest water and sewer provider in the Greater Hartford region; it has come under fire in recent years for its repeated, large water rate hikes and its decisions to give volume price discounts to large, corporate water users.
“As I said in my testimony, we’re at the point where we need legislative action to help improve transparency at the Metropolitan District and to strengthen the public trust in them. I’ve heard from countless constituents who have serious reservations about the operations of the Metropolitan District,” Slap said. “This bill has three components which, working together, will help improve public trust. While families in my Senate district love the Metropolitan District’s water quality and its reservoirs, they’re much more conflicted about its governance and operations. This bill can close that divide, and that’s good for consumers and the Metropolitan District.”
Six dozen people submitted testimony on the bill, including town leaders and environmental organizations.
“While the MDC has periodically revised its charter over the years, we do not know whether it has been looked at in a comprehensive manner, especially by an outside entity. It is a beneficial exercise for any municipal government to periodically review its charter to determine whether its provisions need to be updated,” said West Hartford Mayor Shari Cantor. “The MDC charter was first promulgated in 1929 and much has changed since then.”
“This quasi, public-private authority has long been at the center of controversy due to its lack of accountability and for policy decisions that are not in the best interest of the public it was created to serve,” said Lori Brown, Executive Director of the Connecticut League of Conservation Voters. “There must be a serious effort to review the finances, operations, and ethical standards by which the MDC must abide. The legislature created the MDC and can make course corrections for them by statute if the Authority is unable to perform in the best interest of the public.”
“Residents and the ecological communities in Hartford County, as well as those downriver, depend the MDC to carry out its mission to provide customers with safe drinking water and environmentally protective wastewater collection and treatment, said Kelsey Wentling, River Steward of the Connecticut River Conservancy. “The health of the Connecticut River and all those who live in and enjoy its waters depends on an accountable and efficient MDC. By requiring annual audits, establishing a task force to examine the organization and the required adoption of a code of ethics by the MDC, we believe Senate Bill 966 increases credibility of MDC and trust between the MDC and the public.”
The Planning and Development Committee is expected to vote on the bill by April 9.
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