By Zachary Meseck and Tyler Murphy
NORWICH –The City of Norwich Mayor Christine Carnrike said she was forced to admit the existence of an undisclosed and informal agreement with her private employer, Burrell's Excavating, that gave the company access to city water at no charge, after members of the public complained.
Carnrike is a long-time and full-time employee of the company. At a public meeting Tuesday the mayor said she had chosen to continue to offer her employer, which is based outside of city limits, free water as part of an established "hand shake agreement."
Some members of the city's common council said they were never told of the arrangement, but Carnrike claimed she was just continuing an original agreement made by former Norwich Department of Public Works Superintendent Carl Iverson.
However, officials said they did not know if any paperwork or records existed of the ongoing behind closed-doors deal, and officials also did not disclose how much city water had been taken by the company.
The mayor said her employer Burrell's Excavating explained that it no longer wanted the arrangement due to public perception, and in Tuesday's meeting the mayor said she was being forced to address the issue after online complaints brought attention to the deal.
The topic was introduced by Carnrike after a motion was passed in a joint committee meeting to begin charging Burrell's Excavating for any future water usage, but once the agreement reached the council without the city attorney's knowledge, officials debated the best course of action.
"We passed the joint committee meeting resolution because we wanted to resolve a few issues," said Norwich City Alderman Matthew Caldwell.
Caldwell said the city already has an official process that documents water payment agreements with businesses outside of the City of Norwich, and that a similar arrangement should be formed with Burrell's.
However, the other aldermen voted to table the agreement until the next public meeting.
"I think the council wants to wait to hear what the city attorney has to say, I also trust his advice, but this seems easy to me, I thought we should just get it done," said Caldwell.
Caldwell said the city attorney was unaware of the agreement because he had missed the joint committee meeting that discussed it, and Alderman Linda Kays-Biviano said she was also unaware of the water agreement until it was discussed at the common council meeting.
Caldwell said his understanding was that if Burrell's needed a load of water the city would give it to them in exchange for other services.