Regional solutions working in Norwich & Sprague

By State Senator Cathy Osten and Chris LaRose

For longer than most people can remember, the term ‘regionalization’ has been thrown around government and political circles as a theoretical if not sensible way to solve problems in Connecticut. With 169 municipalities in a relatively small state, we’ve always been told, communities sharing their resources can help address pressing issues in our cities and towns.

And to see just how regionalization works in a practical sense, look no further that a partnership between Norwich Public Utilities (NPU), the Town of Sprague and the Department of Public Health.

Each had an objective that was tied to the others: the Town of Sprague needed a water main extension for emergency situations; NPU was in the midst of a series of water projects that needed support from the State of Connecticut; and the Department of Public Health wanted to help both communities improve their water infrastructures.

By working together and sharing ideas, a partnership was launched that benefits all parties. NPU is installing a 9,700-foot extension from Norwich into Sprague. The $3.2 million project qualified for a 50% grant through the Drinking Water State Revolving Fund. And by undertaking a regional project, NPU is eligible for a higher reimbursement – 30% instead of 8% – for a number of critical water projects that are already underway.

The benefits for both communities are as clear as they are significant. NPU’s water ratepayers in Norwich, Lebanon, Bozrah, Franklin, Montville, Preston, Lebanon and the Mohegan Tribe will enjoy greater reliability and water quality. The taxpayers in Sprague will avoid the considerable expense of funding a new emergency water main; and the Department of Public Health will know that more residents in Sprague will have a safe and reliable source of water with the turn of a valve in the event of an emergency.

Collaboration on inter-municipal projects is not always easy or straightforward. If it were, we’d see more of it across Connecticut. But most people in public service are in it for the right reasons and we hope that more of them will be open mutually agreeable regional solutions in the future whenever possible.

Challenges and obstacles are part of state and local government, regardless of the economic climate. In the right places and with the right approach, regionalism can work in Connecticut.

State Senator Cathy Osten of the 19th Senate District is also the First Selectman in Sprague. Chris LaRose is the Acting General Manager for Norwich Public Utilities.