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Neighbors Want Breakdown of Bill Before Paying for Waterline

Residents on Forest Road and Cedar Terrace asked the Town Council for an itemized bill to ensure they will be paying for what they agreed to when a water main was extended to their neighborhood seven years ago.

Fifteen homeowners living with poor well-water quality on Forest Road and Cedar Terrace struck an agreement with the town to extend a water main to their neighborhood seven years ago. But they had never been billed for the work and only recently learned through media reports that the town plans to bill each property $11,830 to be paid over 10 years at five percent annual interest — and that liens would be used to ensure payment.

Several spoke about the issue at the Town Council meeting Monday night.

David LoCascio of Forest Road said neighbors were grateful when the council approved an ordinance for the water main extension in 2004, expected to pay their share for it, but never heard anything.

"We would have liked to have been notified earlier and be able to sit down with you," he told council members. "We are more than willing to pay our share, but we just want to pay what's fair."

LoCascio said he and several neighbors had met with First Selectman Steve Vavrek and Town Attorney John Fracassini, who explained the situation to them. They were told letters would be sent out placing liens on their properties and that they would have 60 days upon receipt to respond.

"What I didn't know is that we would have 30 days to pay $1,532 right away," LoCascio said

He also thought it was unfair to charge back interest seeing that the town had never billed them over the past seven years.

The neighbors are asking that the bills be itemized, so they can see exactly what was paid for and who is supposed to pay what. LoCascio said the town had agreed to pay for certain things years ago. He expressed his hope to receive the information within 10 days, because "the clock is ticking."

"We ask that the town not ask for that scheduled payment until we know what it is," LoCascio said.

First Selectman Steve Vavrek said, "I fully expect to see an itemized bill within the next couple days."

Vavrek apologized for any delay explaining that the town attorney has been away due to a death in the family. "I appreciate you trying to be open," he said to the neighbors.

John Badyrka of Forest Road said, "It was never our intention to not pay the town back." He said he had gone to town hall asking about payments up until 2008, but gave up when no one ever knew anything about it.

Mary Alice and Gregory Citrano just bought their house on Cedar Terrace last November.

"We didn't know anything about this situation until we saw it through the media," Mary Alice said. "I would like a meeting with town officials and the homeowners."

Gregory said, "If money is owed, you should be paid," but he added that he wants to be making decisions with town officials rather than "being on the outside looking in."

Warren Lucid of Forest Road noted how there seemed to be "all the time in the world" when his wife had gone to town hall to ask about the payments over the years and "now everything has to be done right away." He said it is unfair for the people living on fixed incomes.

Michael Riccio of Forest Road also asked for an itemized bill. "We really don't know that the bottom line is," he said.

Town Councilwoman Dee Dee Martin asked First Selectman Steve Vavrek why the neighbors were not notified about the liens sooner.

"Why prior to reading it in the press were these neighbors not advised?" Martin asked.

Town Councilman J.P. Sredzinski said, "I don't think there is any reason why we can't have a fair payment schedule and interest rate. These people were blindsided, even though they knew about it," he added of the seven year delay in billing.

In his town hall office Tuesday morning, Vavrek said, "I'm not blaming anybody in the past. We found this out. Let's move forward. We're trying to fix it."

QWERTY March 16, 2012 at 02:38 AM
Maybe I missed it...who is paying for 7 extra years of interest and the legal fees associated with this mistake?
monroe taxpayer March 16, 2012 at 04:42 AM
It seems you are more concerned with excusing some individuals then what caused this so called "clerical error" and making sure it never happens again and if it does it is caught before years go by. What happened to professionalism and honesty in government? I know several town employees and some go above and beyond and are never rewarded for those efforts. I also have meet some over the years who think the resident work for them and their position give them a attitude of superiority. They are mistaken. If this line was installed several years ago and the homes involved were never billed, who was paying for those several years? The only answer I can think of is the taxpayers? If this "clerical error" happened only the first year then would be one thing and I would agree with you. But to let it go undiscovered for several years that is entirely different story, it had to add several additional years of interest or cost. If we as a town, are going to hold the new home owners who had no knowledge of this agreement responsible, but not those town employees who job it was to bill for this extension, that is clearly a double standard and wrong. The simple fact that it took several years to notice this so called "clerical error" shows that something needs to be done to assure it never happens again. Now why are you trying so hard to silence everyone on this issue?
New Homeowner March 16, 2012 at 10:05 AM
Easy to say its a mistake and no one is responsible when you are not being blindsided by an almost $12000 bill. Due to this mistake, I will likely have to spent significant money in legal fees to try and recover this money through a lawsuit. when we purchased this home, nothing was on the land records. I negotiated a price on the home without the knowledge that there was an outstanding bill of $12000. Both the town and the original homeowner share the responsibility for this issue as they failed to disclose. Now we are the ones who have to try to sort through this mess, at our expense. Had this been recorded on the land records, the previous homeowners would have paid this amount at closing or we could have negotiated the price. There needs to be some accountability here. As a first I've homebuyer, I certainly don't feel good about my decision to buy in this town. A title search can't be effective if the town does not keep accurate records. And the laws all favor the town. There is nothing to protect new homeowners from something like this happening . Very unsettling.
New Homeowner March 16, 2012 at 10:27 AM
And to clarify, I am not demanding anyone lose their job, but I do feel the new homeowners should be treated differently. When I make a mistake, I take responsibility. The town needs to take responsibility for their negligence in waiting 7 years to place this lien.
Walt March 16, 2012 at 11:45 AM
@ new homeowner have you talked to the first selectman to see if they can help you out at all? As I said earlier the town should waive the interest accrued. Unfortunately it may cost you some attorneys fees up front but the previous owners are responsible for the bill. How should the town take responsibility, by absolving you and all your neighbors of the debt? Perhaps the town can assist you in recovering the funds from the previous owner in some way, but if the money is not repaid then all taxpayers have paid for a water line that benefits only a few. I understand your frustration and it sucks. @monroetaxpayer - who was paying WHAT for those several years? The project was paid for by the town. Done. Yes, all the taxpayers in town paid for that water line. Now the town will recoup the money from those that benefited from the project. I'm not trying to silence anybody, if that were the case why would I keep posting here? Let's say it is found out who it was that didn't send the bills out, do you have a punishment in mind?
Thesaurus March 16, 2012 at 12:32 PM
Punishment in mind? You bet. Termination papers.
Donna Gail March 16, 2012 at 01:30 PM
Why do people keep referring to "finding out who dropped the ball" or "who didn't send the bills out"? Wasn't this the tax collector's responsibility? It just sounds like the decision was made to help the neighborhood out, and Town Council approved it, the work was done, but maybe there was no actual direction given to the Tax Collector. It's not like this was a common situation for the Town. I don't understand why many of you are saying there must be other things the town employees are doing wrong. This was an unusual situation. Several of the higher-ups (Council, First Selectman, Town Attorney, Tax Collector & Assessor) obviously must have thought someone else was taking care of it. There's no excuse for it, but rather than pinpointing blame, just resolve it and make it work out for the homeowners. Cut them some slack - since they couldn't get any good info all these years on what was going on, they were probably hopeful that the situation was just going to go away - I know I would have.
John F. March 16, 2012 at 01:48 PM
I sure hope you have title insurance. And if so, you should be contacting them immediately.
David LoCascio March 16, 2012 at 02:37 PM
No one should be punished, it just points out some issues with processes that need to be reviewed so they do not occur again. The issues that are being brought to light are things the town is trying to remediate. The exception that most of the residents have is the lack of transparency in the process and the procedure to collect this debt without disclosure of what it is that we are to be charged. The overriding lesson here is to look at procedure to make sure we are as a town keeping proper account and following procedures that prevent these types of things from happening again. This was a fairly unique situation the town embarked on to help a neighborhood . The project cost in terms of the town budget is a small amount and I am sure the concern over interest to the town is probably not near as expensive as other capital projects. I also cannot say that all our neighbors have agreed to pay anything and may in fact take legal action, costing the town even more. Much of this could have been avoided if the affected residents were included in the dialogue and perhaps could have negotiated a fair settlement. It could be within our power to not have to pay anything back, but the majority of us do not feel that is fair to the town.
Walt March 16, 2012 at 03:31 PM
You, a person affected by all this, sound like you're being reasonable. You're right that it would not be fair to the town not to pay anything back as you are enjoying the benefit of having water at your house.
QWERTY March 16, 2012 at 03:51 PM
If the town doesn't have the infrastructure or procedures in place to support such a project then they shouldn't have accepted it! And I question how unique this project even is. My real estate search encountered multiple homes, in other towns, with sewers liens on them. It's not a common occurrence but one that certainly the town should have a process for. But this is neither here nor there...we, the taxpayers, want an explanation as to why this happened and how it is going to be prevented in the future. If employee termination is required, so be it! What I don't want to hear is some "director", who makes six figures and is responsible for an entire department, make some generalized excuse blaming procedure or process. We pay these leaders so much money in salary to assure things go smoothly.
Walt March 16, 2012 at 04:00 PM
A sewer lien is very common. Monroe doesn't have sewers. This is a water line.
QWERTY March 16, 2012 at 04:11 PM
What's the difference? Someone needs to front the money and then recoup it in the form of a property-tax lien. The procedure should have little deviation regardless of utility being installed.
monroe taxpayer March 16, 2012 at 04:30 PM
@Walt if the town paid several years ago these homes should have been receiving yearly payments. We did not, so we just extend this loan for seven years interest free. Let me ask you this, if some home owner could only make partial tax payments for several years, would the town allow them an interest free loan on that money? Would your opinion be it was just "lost in the sauce"? No big deal? I would imagine the town would want interest on that money if they did not foreclose before seven years years went by. My point here is that this error has cost the town money, time and embarrassment. The town would not excuse a similar error if it was made by any homeowner or resident and would require more of an explanation then it just got "lost in the sauce". I think we deserve to know how this happened . Who wasn't paying enough attention to catch this? How it continued uncorrected for several years. And to be informed what steps have been taken to change the process so it never happens again. Otherwise we have no way of knowing that this will not happen again sometime in the future.
Walt March 16, 2012 at 04:32 PM
OK, let's have the public hearing and if the council decides to waive the billing it's done, and all the taxpayers will eat the cost of having the water line installed. I would be willing to bet that if any fault is to be assigned it would be with the entire council from those years previous, not voting to have a hearing or tabling the matter and then forgetting about it. But you hate town employees and think everyone is making six figures so someone must be forced to pay with their job. Maybe that'll make yor taxes go down. GRRRRRR!!
QWERTY March 16, 2012 at 05:22 PM
What I hate are people like you who take a lazy approach to life. I hope you give the same forgiveness to your surgeon when a "clerical error" happens...
Walt March 16, 2012 at 05:34 PM
curmudgeon
monroe taxpayer March 16, 2012 at 05:39 PM
Walt lets just show where the system and procedure failed and correct it. I find your views of this having an interesting spin? It sounds like you are a unhappy town employee? No one hates town employees, we just want town business to be conducted professionally and efficiently. while trying to keep our taxes reasonable. To be honest we are somewhat shocked that an error like this could take place and then go unresolved for several years. How often do we hear of something like this happened in other towns? It sad that this happened and trying to justify this with just a "clerical error" is somewhat lacking and non descriptive.
Walt March 16, 2012 at 06:24 PM
Okay monroe taxpayer, I agree - lets show where the system and procedure failed and correct it. Wonderful. I hope that you can also agree that the town did these people a solid and shouldn't be made out to look as if they are persecuting these residents. Their wells were shot and now they have water. I'm not an unhappy town employee, I only live in Monroe I don't work here, but I also do not think that the vitriol constantly spewed towards town employees by some on here is justified.
Christine E. March 16, 2012 at 07:17 PM
So basically, you think we should be holding Town Employees to a lower standard, where we should expect less of them than we would of people who work in the private sector. Is this correct? You say we hate Town Employees but really, you don't think much of what their capabilities are...do you? I mean, why else would you say that no one should be held responsible? Walt, get it through your head. Regardless of whether or not the money is paid back, the town and homeowners are going to incur many legal fees in years to come. It's not over, even when it feels over.
Walt March 17, 2012 at 01:20 PM
Wow, lawsuits, only if the people are ingrates and want the project for nothing. Next time this situation arises let them figure it out on their own. You envision some evil town employee grinning maniacally wringing his hands and sneering how he's going to screw some people over and get away with it. Let's see how this all fleshes out and ensure that the proper safeguards are in place so the procedure is done correctly in the future. Companies in the private sector like Lehman Bros, Goldman, JP Morgan etc. brought the country to its knees and not one person was ever held accountable. Don't hold up the private sector as some shining example of perfection, they are royally screwing you, just not through the tax system everyone abhors.
monroe taxpayer March 17, 2012 at 05:01 PM
Walt did you read this CP article? http://www.ctpost.com/local/article/Surprise-assessment-bill-baffles-Monroe-homeowners-3407784.php
Thesaurus March 21, 2012 at 03:43 PM
New homeowners contact your title insurance carrier, and refer your billing to them. They will battle with the town and win. Old homeowners, get whatever it is you want to see and PAY UP!
BT March 21, 2012 at 04:18 PM
Thesaurus it is quite interesting - ALL THE HOMEOWNERS HAVE INDICATED THAT THEY WANT TO PAY THEIR BILLS - again the problem is that the town cannot and has not provided a breakdown of the bills even though they were requested a few months ago. I find it interesting that the town paid Aquarian without having a breakdown of the costs 7 years ago. The town is the one stalling, not the residents. I am sure if you were presented with a bill for $11,800 you would want to know the breakdown.
Thesaurus March 21, 2012 at 05:07 PM
YES, I certainly would.BT contact all of the members of the town council. Bother them with this dilemna-they won't like it and it will force the issue to take top priority-where at this stage,it belongs.
monroe taxpayer March 21, 2012 at 05:15 PM
I can not help but wonder if the none of the properties ever received a lien and no one ever received a bill until now? How are the owners responsible for this mess at all? I would also imagine that there is a limit of time, set by law in which a debt needs to be collected? If any homeowner made an "clerical error" like this would the town be willing to forgive the interest for the several years and to accept it was just a "clerical error? I simply can not help but wonder why we are not looking into what has happened here and what other over sights and "clerical errors" we are unaware of? There seems to be an unexplained double standard taking place here?
New Homeowner March 21, 2012 at 10:31 PM
We have contacted our title insurance company, but having them pay the lien is not so simple. We will still likely be out significant legal fees trying to recover this money. The town has told us they are not going to finger point, it's a mistake, it happened. I am concerned as a tax paying resident about the lack of accountability at the town level. If I made a " clerical error" of this magnitude, I don't think the town would be so forgiving. The laws are all on their side. No statute of limitations since they are a municipality. There was nothing on the land records when we purchased, but somehow we are responsible for this mess. We don't have thousands laying around to fight a legal battle for this mistake.
Thesaurus March 23, 2012 at 05:34 PM
Such a professional and respectful manner to treat a new homeowner. Why am I not surprised? Keep the pressure on the town council.
Christine E. March 23, 2012 at 06:03 PM
New Homeowner, I feel heart-sorry for you. This isn't something you should have to be dealing with. Alas, you will incur hefty legal fees that you will likely not have reimbursed. I think people are forgetting that, even when the town gets their money back, it isn't going to stop on the legal front. People, like you, will ultimately file lawsuits and go after the town for some kind of pain and suffering. I wouldn't blame you for it, either.
Christine E. March 23, 2012 at 06:05 PM
Who wouldn't? It all sounds so easy when you're not involved, but i'm sure from your end you just want to make sure you're not getting screwed. I figure, if the town can't bill you for 7 years because they're disorganized, they could easily screw up an invoice.

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