Water rates would rise 31 percent under plan

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The audience was small — just a handful of people — but directors of the Bristol County Water Authority got an earful when they held a public hearing on a plan to raise water rates held Thursday night at the Mt. Hope High School cafeteria.

From the timing of the request to the need for the money to the water authority's overall plan, there wasn't much picked apart or dissected by the few audience members who spoke, including several town councilors from Bristol and Barrington, two retirees and Bristol Rep. Raymond Gallison. No public officials from Warren attended the meeting.

"With this meeting tonight, to me, you're the Grinches that stole Christmas," said Rep. Gallison.

"Look at the ability of people to pay in the Bristol County area. They can't afford it."

Added Bristol resident James Ferreira:

"You're killing the seniors. Me and my wife, we can't continue to afford these increases. We can't."

Both were referring to a plan by the authority to raise rates 12 percent this coming year, with yearly 4 percent increases to follow over the next four years. That 28 percent increase actually translates into an overall hike of 31 percent, given compounding over the five-year life of the increases.

Authority executive director Pam Marchand said the increases are needed for many reasons, the first of which is ensuring Bristol County has a reliable backup source of water; namely, a connection to Pawtucket's system at an estimated cost of $20 million. Money would also go to pay down debt, modernize the authority's computer systems, and keep a healthy reserve balance as required by law and by bond issuers.

People are using less water than ever, she said, leading to a downward revenue trend in recent years. In response the authority has buttoned up and reduced costs, but it's not enough.

"We've been cutting to the bone," she said. "We've sold everything we could sell. We've sold vehicles, pumps, motors, whatever we can sell, we've gotten rid of. We have to invest in our infrastructure; it's gotten past the point that we need to do this work."

But several audience members seemed unconvinced, including Mr. Ferreira.

He questioned the authority's need for the consultant who helped the organization plan a financial strategy to update infrastructure, mostly because one of the recommendations was to do do away with the long-standing senior discount.

"If you came to me and said what should we do with the senior discount, I would have told you to keep it and save all that money that you would have spent on the consultant" telling you to get rid of it.

Ms. Marchand, though, defended the senior discount phase out, which will begin in 2015 and be totally phased out by 2018. Meanwhile, a new "lifeline" discount will be introduced that will lower residents' rates if they conserve.

Audience members also took issue with the timing of the authority's proposed rate increases.

The BCWA's fiscal year starts March 1, so any rate adjustments are usually completed in February. But this year, board members plan to vote on a "rate adjustment on Wednesday, Jan. 9, six days after a second public hearing is held at Warren Town Hall (at 6 p.m. Thursday, Jan. 3).

Audience member Bill DeWitt, a member of the Barrington Town, said that's too quick, and would undo any goodwill the authority has tried to engender since hiring Ms. Marchand and trying to improve the reputation and community outreach of the unpopular utility.

"As positive an accomplishment as (the community program) is, you're going to lose all that you gain by jamming (a rate increase) through" to accommodate vacations, he said.

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eastbaypatriots

I wasn't at the meeting last night. For some reason I thought it was in the auditorium, went there, and it was closed and dark. I did not see any signage or notice of the meeting so I thought it had been cancelled.

The fact that there were only 3 or 4 concerned citizens that attended is bothersome and puzzling. Maybe the people have just given up. BCWA has squandered money for the last 20 years, failing to pay down their debt in a timely manner. Yes, we now have new management, but the decisions on spending money do not seem to be tightened at all. The Union contract was lucrative, especially considering the fact that it includes GUARANTEED jobs at GUARANTEED pay for union employees no matter what course the water authority should ultimately take. There will be NO layoffs if the plant is closed and BCWA becomes a distribution center.

Two new executives will be hired at a cost of $100,000 including benefits.

When asked about the increases on Wednesday night Ms. Marchand said that after the initial 12% it would probably be 4% ad infinitum because the authority has no money.

BCWA has come full circle and embraced the recommendations of our citizen's watch committee presented at the January Forum in 2011. Two years of "spinning" and calling people names, threatening to sue ratepayers who asked "too many questions" and, not only that, they "weren't born and bred here", and here we are. We are now being advised that it is more economical and results in safer, purer water, to purchase water from Scituate and Pawtucket instead of trying to process our own. Duh!

It will be interesting to see how the ratepayers react when the first bills come rolling in. Folks, it's too late then. Speak now or suffer the consequences.

Friday, December 21, 2012 | Report this
RightInRI1

Why didn't Warren have any representation ?....You can certainly tell election day has come & gone...in the months leading up to the election I saw all the candidates ( councilors, reps, sen, etc ) at every function or meeting in town....now ?...nothing. Where does our Rep & Senator stand on what is happening here ? Rep Malik ? Senator Felag ?...hello ? And not one Warren town councilor could attend ?

Friday, December 21, 2012 | Report this

Not only are the citizens of this community angry about raising those rates, but how about this. For the second ime this week, I came across 2 BCWA employees who were on company time and doing their personal business in uniform and on company vehicle. Want to save money? Get rid of those losers who take advantage of their jobs.

Friday, December 21, 2012 | Report this
RightInRI1

Or the ones that have a business on the side and conduct such business on BCWA hours...

Friday, December 21, 2012 | Report this
garym

BCWA's 31% rate increase is based largely in trust that they will use the money to the benefit of rate payers. At this point, I highly doubt it, nor have faith that BCWA can ever be trusted without PUC oversight.

The vote to reinstate Sandra Mack as their legal counsel appeared illegal. They've posted the same "RFP - Legal" meeting notice every month, and then did a vote late at night to reinstate Ms. Mack on that same non descriptive notice in an attempt to keep the public out of the discussion.

Sandra Mack has to be reviewing these notices. So was Sandra Mack's legal advice to hold an illegal meeting so she could slip in without public debate???

BCWA was controversial for the past two decades because of tactics like this. The Board should be ashamed of itself for continuing to promote such tactics, while at the same time, proclaiming a need to rebuild trust within the community.

As far as I'm concerned, the meeting to reinstate Sandra Mack as their legal counsel sent a clear message that BCWA cannot be trusted with a 5 year 30+% rate increase. The foundation for that increase was trust in the community to act on rate payers best interests.

They've just sent a message - rate payers be damned!

Saturday, December 22, 2012 | Report this
comn sense

You can't get rid of any BCWA employee now. The union bargained in a "no layoff" clause designed to protect all the dead wood.

Marchand says the rate payers got a good deal in the new contract, but she's lying. We got scrwd (again).

They still make a fortune for doing little, and have a benefit package and pension plan that is the envy of the free world.

This is all marketing fluff by BCWA.

Saturday, December 22, 2012 | Report this
garym

Pete,

The $6.9 million has some problems that BCWA hasn't been fully candid on.

First, $5 million of that money was from a voter initiative in 2004 specifically allocated to "complete the Shad Pipeline". The Legislature has little in the way of authority to reallocate the money.

Second, the remainder of that amount was from a state transfer of $3.2 million in 1998 that, according to the records, may not have been an authorized transfer of state funds.

The State Budget Office is currently trying to sort this out as to how the transfer of state funds ever took place in advance of completion of the Shad Pipeline.

That $6.9 million may be an illusion, and rate payers themselves might have to cover this over and above the already requested 30% increase.

Saturday, December 22, 2012 | Report this
comn sense

The Shad Pipeline wasn't even started. This is a continuing scam.

What about that bond money that BCWA themselves took out years ago to work on the Shad Pipeline. I guess it was spent, but we all know that not one inch of Shad Pipeline was installed.

BCWA is one endless scandal, just with some new faces.

The Bristol town council should remove DeMello from the Board as being a phony rate payer advocate. He's for himself and little more than a political opportunist.

Saturday, December 22, 2012 | Report this
Joseph DeMelo

First of all, COMN SENSE, please let myself and the reader's know why the Bristol Town Council should remove me from my position as a BCWA Director? Also, what political opportunity am I looking for?

When was the last time you attended a BCWA meeting? I assume by your comments it is never. If you feel I should be removed from my position, I tell you this, my term is up for reappointment in February. I invite you to apply for the position and let our Town Council decide. But then again, someone who is hiding behind an alias to post messages has no backbone. One thing to remember, there are always many protesters but few to many problem solver's. You COMN SENSE CLEARLEY ARE NOT THE LATTER.

Sunday, December 23, 2012 | Report this
comn sense

Mr DeMelo

I speak of you as an opportunist because your actions since being appointed to the board show you to be an opportunist.

You lobbied to become a director based on rate payer interests, but every vote you've made is anti rate payer.

Yes Mr DeMelo, it's not only me who now sees you as little more than an opportunist using this position as a stepping stone to Bristol crony central.

And please stop with the "you be a director" dribble. You volunteered on your word, and have failed to live up to your word.

Sunday, December 23, 2012 | Report this
edickervitz

Our apologies Mr. Hewett.

The statements attributed to you were actually those of James Ferreira. The error has been corrected in the on-line version above, and we will print a correction in next weeks Warren Times and Bristol Phoenix.

Thursday, January 3, 2013 | Report this
robert-cloutier-710

Things will never change.

I was passed over for a job (NEVER INTERVIEWED) I was too qualified, had too many licenses, lived too close, didn't know the right people.

Who are they hiring more out of towners like (Marchand and her FRIEND Booth)? When a board member was questioned he said "you had a lot of competition", I replied "how, I can't get any more water licensing, I have them all already, I had the highest score on the exam", "they are hiring less qualified people, were are you saving money, you are going to have to spend thousands of dollars training new hires"???

Nothing changes, very, very sad.

Friday, September 27, 2013 | Report this

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