A lawmaker accused of attacking the Bristol County Water Authority leader’s credibility and potentially damaging the authority’s image says he won’t respond to requests that he explain himself publicly.
Bristol Rep. Raymond Gallison said he had no plans to attend Wednesday night’s meeting of the authority’s board of directors despite the board’s invitation. That invitation — to “explain why he abandoned the water ratepayers of Bristol County,” according to a memo from the authority’s board of directors — was extended following an article published in the Barrington Times several weeks ago, in which Rep. Gallison said he helped defeat a $15 million water pipeline bond referendum after failing to get adequate information on the project from the authority’s executive director, Pamela Marchand.
After hearing about the invitation to appear before the board, Rep. Gallison said he cannot attend.
“I’m not going to go,” he said last week. “I’m not going to get into that; my concern is for the ratepayers. I don’t need to go through all this nonsense.”
The dispute arose after Rep. Gallison helped remove $15 million in bonds from a larger statewide bond referendum that will be presented to voters in November. That $15 million would have helped pay for a new pipeline connecting Bristol County and East Providence to the Pawtucket water supply; it’s a project that BCWA officials say is needed to give Bristol County a redundant source of water.
While few doubt the need to give the district a second source, Rep. Gallison said he fought to have the money taken off the bond issue because there are too many financing questions, specifically regarding East Providence’s commitment to the project and what that would mean to BCWA ratepayers.
Though the project has been endorsed by the Barrington and Bristol town councils and BCWA officials say much of the cost will be reimbursed by the state, Rep. Gallison and Warren Town Council members have grown concerned in recent months about what would happen if East Providence decided it didn’t want to contribute financially.
Though East Providence officials first proposed the project several years ago and reached out to BCWA officials to join in, city council members there have so far declined to support it financially. Rep. Gallison said that for months he has been asking Ms. Marchand and others what would happen if East Providence does not ultimately agree to help Bristol County pay off the bonds. Warren officials have been asking the same questions, and according to them, getting few answers.
“That was my problem with the whole thing,” Rep. Gallison was quoted as saying in the article, which appeared in the Barrington Times on Wednesday, June 18. “I don’t know why I could never get an answer. Ask Pam.”
Following the article’s publication last month, BCWA board members had a “heated” discussion on his comments, and their next step. According to a memo sent soon after, “Following heated discussion on his attack at her professional credibility and potential damage to the Authority’s image, directors asked that (Rep. Gallison) be invited to our next scheduled meeting on July 9 to explain why he abandoned the water ratepayers of Bristol County … Town Council members will also be invited so that they may hear his response directly.”
As they deal with the loss of the bond referendum this year, BCWA officials wrote in the memo that passing a bond is still a goal and is essential to protect ratepayers from paying even more for the connection than originally planned.
“It is possible that in the future, the (state water resources board) may require this inter-connection, which would only be more costly without the potential of referendum partial funding.”
For the time being, board members are moving ahead with “Plan B”: Planning an “initial” transmission line between Bristol County and East Providence. That project is estimated to cost $4 million and funding is not yet in place.