The city plans to fight for more than $380,000 it says Connecticut Light & Power owes it for past billing mistakes.
City Councilor Cliff Block said he anticipates a long, hard battle to collect the cash for mistakes in old streetlighting bills, but “the payoff at the end is going to be significant.”
"We feel we've got hard case evidence" to prove it, city Councilor Mike Rimcoski said, and officials intend to fight for every penny.
Councilors unanimously agreed to give officials and Municipal Energy, the consultant helping find the billing errors, another 45 days to search for more mistakes and then to launch a legal fight to get the money.
The utility company has admitted that it made mistakes. It offered the city $86,000 in compensation.
But Municipal Energy tapped into a wealth of public works records to argue that Bristol is actually owed at least $380,000.
The consultant stands to make about $55,000 if the city’s claim holds up, which would leave taxpayers with about an extra $240,000 if the city can win the case that Municipal Energy helped it make.
The city hired the firm a year and a half ago for $10,000 plus 15 percent of whatever the city earns above $86,000 from taking on the utility giant.
Bristol is one of about 50 towns and cities challenging the payouts that CL&P offered and the state Department of Utility Control approved.
Block said that Bristol, which may have the most records to prove its case, is setting the pace in taking on the power company.
He warned, though, that nobody should expect to see any money soon. He said there is “going to be a heck of a fight” with CL&P because the utility stands to lose millions if Bristol can thwart its initial offer, since it would likely open the door for other cities to collect bigger checks, too.
Rimcoski said the city is going to try to enlist Attorney General Richard Blumenthal’s support for its quest for cash that officials say Bristol deserves.
"We're holding our ground," Rimcoski said.
Here are a number of reports from Municipal Energy that lay out in detail what's at the root of the controversy. The company's president, Ken Johnson, kindly provided the documents today at my request.
Municipal Energy Report to the Streetlight Committee (April 3, 2008)
Energy's Bristol's Refund Calculation Summary
Municipal Energy New Found Report on March 2, 2008
Municipal Energy New Found Lights (March 7, 2008)
Municipal Energy's New Found spreadsheet
Copyright 2008. All rights reserved.
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