BCWA calling for 12 percent rate hike
The Bristol County Water Authority will host a public hearing on a potential rate hike next Thursday night, Dec. 20.
BCWA Executive Director Pamela Marchand said the possible rate hike of 12 percent would equate to a $5 per month or ($60 per year) increase for the average BCWA customer who uses about 52,000 gallons of water each year.
The possible rate increase mirrors a 12 percent revenue increase identified in the BCWA’s current financial plan. The financial plan also calls for four consecutive years of 4 percent revenue increases beginning in March 2014 though potential rate increases associated with raising this revenue had yet to be determined as of this report.
Ms. Marchand spoke to the potential rate hike during an informational meeting held Tuesday morning for Bristol, Warren and Barrington officials. The session also touched on the BCWA’s capital plan, a driving factor behind the potential rate hike. The capital plan includes improvements and renovations to storage tanks, water mains and instrumentation systems.
The plan has a total cost of about $18.4 million over the next five years. Revenue, meanwhile, has shown a downward trend over the last 10 years. Ms. Marchand also said a chunk of every customer’s water bill is tied to the re-payment of bonds that were issued to fund a cross-bay pipeline, which connected the BCWA to water from the Scituate Reservoir.
On the flip-side of revenue, Ms. Marchand said the BCWA has taken steps to limit expenses including re-financing existing debt to less than 2 percent interest, discontinuing the use of the Child Street treatment plant (it still runs one day a month as a back-up) and a negotiating a collective bargaining agreement with employees that contains savings in post-employment benefits, among other areas.
A potential connection to the Pawtucket water system was another facet of Tuesday’s presentation.
Ms. Marchand said the Bristol County Water Act requires the maintenance of a redundant water supply from Massachusetts. She said the agency needs legislative assistance to allow this redundant supply to come from Pawtucket and local town councils might be able to help by passing resolutions in support of the proposal.
A study examining the engineering requirements of connecting the BCWA to Pawtucket through East Providence is currently underway. The study has about a $225,000 cost. It’s funding includes a 25 percent contribution from both the BCWA and East Providence, along with a 50 percent contribution from the state.
But even if the legislation is amended to allow for the switch to Pawtucket the BCWA wouldn’t be able to fund the project independently. Director John Jannitto said the state currently has a $6.9 million bond slated to maintain the redundant supply in Massachusetts though the BCWA would like to see these funds used for the Pawtucket connection project.
Ms. Marchand said the BCWA also needs legislative assistance with codifying a number of regulation changes into law. Modifications to BCWA regulations were studied and approved by each town council last year though the amendments have not yet been approved by the General Assembly.