Four local legislators are introducing a bill into the General Assembly that would block the Bristol County Water Authority from following state law that requires them to charge landlords for their tenants’ water use.
The bill was introduced Tuesday by Rep. Ray Gallison and Kenneth Marshall of Bristol, Jan Malik of Warren and Joy Hearn of Barrington, but was later withdrawn due to a typographical error. An amended bill was expected to be introduced Wednesday.
Ironically, state law already requires that water authorities charge landlords directly for their tenants’ usage, and allows authorities to place liens on owners’ property if bills aren’t paid. For years, BCWA officials have disregarded that section of state law, choosing instead to allow tenants to open accounts directly with the authority. Recently, however, executive director Pamela Marchand and other BCWA brass decided to begin adhering to the law, reasoning that going after owners would save the BCWA close to $40,000 per year in uncollectible water bills while freeing up clerks who would otherwise have to chase down delinquent renters.
The bill would leave existing law in place, but exempt the Bristol County Water Authority from its provisions.
On Wednesday, Rep. Gallison said the irony of the legislation isn’t lost on him, considering recent moves by the BCWA:
“It’s absolutely ironic,” said Rep. Gallison, who has called, unsuccessfully, for the BCWA to be placed under the control of the Public Utilities Commission.
“First they were saying they don’t want to follow state law and don’t want to be regulated by the PUC, which would give ratepayers more of a say. Yet on this point they’re trying to use existing state law in their favor. When it benefits them they’re trying to stick it to the ratepayer.”