Water, Water Everywhere …

There’s no such thing as a free lunch.

But a few homeowners inside Longshore Club Park enjoy free water.

I heard recently that the town — not individual property owners — inside Longshore paid certain water bills.

(If you don’t know — and not many people do — there are 3 roads, with a dozen or so homes, within Longshore. Vista Terrace, Waterside Terrace and Glen Drive form a semicircle. These beautiful, hidden lanes start near the 2nd tee, at the entrance road bend, and exit into the parking lot near the Parks & Recreation Department office.

(Rumor has it that when the town of Westport bought the property from a failing country club in 1960, they had no idea they were also buying the roads. It was not until after the closing, when 1st Selectman Herb Baldwin and his staff walked the land, that they realized exactly what they owned.)

Vista Terrace, Waterside Terrace and Glen Drive all begin off Julian Brodie Drive (the official name of the Longshore entrance road). (Screenshot courtesy of Google Maps)

I asked Public Works director Peter Ratkiewich about the arrangement. He says:

“When Longshore was purchased, there was one meter for the entire property, by the Compo South entrance.

“The water line into the park was actually a private main line. That remains the condition today.

“The meter was installed presumably when there was only one owner of the property, prior to the town purchasing it. Our understanding is that the owner periodically sold off lots within the property prior to the town’s purchase, perhaps to make ends meet.

“When the owner sold off lots, they simply extended laterals from their privately owned water main to the houses that were developed, but did not meter those laterals. When the town bought the property, it also bought the water system in it’s existing configuration .

“There is a compelling reason that the owner probably did not want to meter the new laterals. In Connecticut, if you own a private water main and then sell the water that comes from the private main, you become a water company, and are subject to regulation by the regulatory authority. If you give away the water for free, then you are not a water company.

“The only way to avoid becoming a water company would be to extend a new main from Compo South, before the meter, in to the individual properties that are getting unmetered water.

“This was an expensive proposition in the 1960s. It remains expensive today — way more expensive than paying for the unmetered water. It is probably the reason the former owner did not do it, and it is the reason the town hasn’t done it to date.

“At some point however, the town will have to replace the existing water main.  When that happens, the town main will be separated and a new Aquarion main will be extended to the private residences. Those residents getting unmetered water will then be connected to a metered lateral.”

Right now, Ratkiewich says, 5 or residences get unmetered water off the town main. How’s that for a selling point! (Even better for them: An aerial view of the roads shows several with swimming pools.)

Three more are on private wells. The cabins and Inn at Longshore are all fed off the town main too. However, the cost of water is built into their rent,

6 responses to “Water, Water Everywhere …

  1. To indirectly recoup perhaps part of that expense paid by the town: are the assessors who appraise individual properties for town tax collection purposes made aware of this fact? And conceivably doesn’t this add some value to the property?

  2. If charging for the water truly makes the town a regulated water company and it has been determined that this represents an unreasonable burden, then charge the residences in question an annual fee for the use of the (town-owned) service line(s). Notwithstanding the matter of tax payer subsidized water, the taxpayers are currently responsible for anything that goes wrong with the extensive water service infrastructure at Longshore – including, it would seem, the lines into the houses at issue.

  3. Emily Gordon

    The town did charge residents for many years. Several years ago, those requests for payments stopped. Service was intermittent and pressure was non-existent for some residents who found it prudent to dig wells (at their own expense). The town stopped charging for water after that time.

    • Very interesting. Odd that the Director of Public Works omitted from his statement the fact that apparantly certain Longshore residences WERE previously charged by the town for water. Although I can think of several reasons for that, um, lapse, I’m sure it was just unintentional.

  4. Bill Strittmatter

    I’m just guessing here, but probably those properties have deeded and/or contractual rights to the water for some monthly or annual charge. However, (also a guess) when service became shoddy, the owners probably complained if you are going to charge us for water service, you at least have to provide the water service you are charging us for.

    Continuing to guess, after ongoing bickering with the town on the subject, one of the owner’s lawyers told the town that if they were charging the residents, they technically qualified as a public utility and, accordingly, had to meet minimal service standards not to mention meet a whole lot of other regulatory requirements.

    Still guessing, the town then did a quick cost/benefit analysis and concluded that doing what was necessary to legally charge for water was grossly uneconomic and quietly (to avoid sanctions for operating a public utility without a license) settled with the owners and stopped the practice for the net benefit of Westport taxpayers.

    If that is true, hopefully, the statute of limitations for such sanctions has run out before Dan dropped the turd in the punch bowl.

    I could easily be wrong but the post is ripe for speculation so why not join the fun?

    But maybe what Morley insinuates is right. Might be some special secret deal and nefarious cover up going on. In the interest of good government, there should be an investigation, no matter the cost or consequences.

  5. Me? insinuate something?
    I’m shocked.