NBC 10 I-Team: RI Auditor General probes Coventry sewer program
Rhode Island’s Auditor General is reviewing the controversial and costly sewer program in Coventry, according to documents obtained by the NBC 10 I-Team.
In a letter to elected state and town officials, Dennis Hoyle CPA, the state’s Auditor General, laid out a time frame of early May to accomplish a number of tasks, including meeting up with the town’s solicitor and finance director to get a better handle on the massive debt the fund has incurred. (Town Manager Graham Waters has announced his resignation, effective April 13.)
Some residents blame town officials for raiding the town’s general fund to cover sewer expenses. The fund is running at a $2.5 million deficit to the general fund, according to town records.
The program has also been highly criticized because of the high costs to taxpayers to have sewer service hooked up, ranging from $20,000 to $30,000 per household.
In the letter, Hoyle said he’ll take a look at a host of components which include reviewing the financing deal between the town and its lender, the Rhode Island Infrastructure Bank.
By May 10, Hoyle is expected to review the town’s strategy on sewers and see if costs to homeowners could be reduced, including interest rates for those customers who finance the connections.
A number of Coventry sewer officials have faced ethics and other personal challenges over the last few months.
In March, sewer sub-committee member Leonard Piette resigned following a flurry of negative social media posts and messages toward a taxpayer and her daughter.
In January, member Gregory Laboissonniere was fined $1,500 by the State’s Ethics Commission for not disclosing a business relationship between his employer and Coventry stores and restaurants.
Late last year, Glen Skurka, chairman of the sewer sub-commission avoided questions about conflicts of interest between his volunteer public role and his day job as a project manager for D’Ambra Construction. D’Ambra has been awarded more than $2 million in town sewer work and other jobs over the last 10 years. The state ethics commission is investigating a complaint against Skurka.
By governmental design, the Auditor General works for the General Assembly and his role reviewing Coventry sewers has the approval of House Speaker Nicholas Mattiello, according to Mattiello’s spokesman Larry Berman.