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Water Authority Tells Councilors It Needs Cash — Or Else

Bristol County Water Authority officials told town councilors from Bristol, Warren, and Barrington that the agency will run out of cash for operating expenses by the end of next year without more revenue.

 

UPDATE, Dec. 23, 12:30 pm: The BCWA presented a plan that amounts to a 31-percent increase over the next five years, according to East Bay Newspapers.

The Eastbayri.com website quoted state Rep. Raymond Gallison as calling the Authority "the Grinches that stole Christmas."

Original article, Dec. 20, 10 am:

The Bristol County Water Authority is in bad financial shape.

Pamela Marchand, executive director of the water authority, delivered that message to the town councils of Bristol, Warren, and Barrington on Wednesday evening, Dec. 19, at Barrington Town Hall. 

The Tri-Town Meeting was set up by the water authority to brief the 15 councilors on its new strategic and financial plans, and its need for a double-digit rate hike for next year. That rate hike will be explained at a public hearing for ratepayers tonight at 6 at Mt. Hope High School. 

“We’re not in a good financial situation right now,” Marchand said. “We will run out of cash by the end of next year” without a significant boost in revenue. 

Marchand explained after the meeting that she was referring to cash used to pay operating and capital expenses. The water authority still has millions of dollars set aside in reserves to pay off bonds. But that cash cannot be used for day-to-day expenses, she said.

The town councilors also learned Wednesday that the financial situation might be even a bit worse than Marchand explained. Two representatives from the Anawan Club in Rehoboth, MA, informed the councilors that the club filed a lawsuit against the water authority in Superior Court in Taunton, Mass., on Tuesday, Dec. 18. 

The club, which has had an agreement with the water authority for water in the Shad reservoir for decades, is suing the authority for approximately $300,000. The club said it is owed that amount of cash for maintenance and repairs to the dam that feeds the Shad pipeline.

The costs have accumulated over 18 years, and through mounds of correspondence with water authority officials, according to the club representatives. Anawan filed the lawsuit after being unable to reach a settlement agreement with the water authority over the costs.

Marchand spent most of the meeting outlining the water authority’s new strategic plan, which was crafted based on a “situational analysis” that shows an aging infrastructure, a single water source, declining demand for water, and outdated management systems. 

The board has set goals, therefore, to maintain a secure source of high-quality water, address infrastructure that is 100 years old in some cases, improve management systems, ensure financial stability, and improve customer relations. 

“Those goals are all interrelated,” Marchand said. “They must be met together.”

The water authority plans first to secure a backup water supply by building a pipeline through East Providence to Pawtucket, which can supply all of Bristol County’s water if necessary.

But that will take some political muscle to “modify” the Bristol County Water Act, she said, which requires the authority to maintain its supplies and facilities to Massachusetts. 

The authority then wants to start making upgrades to pump stations, water tanks, the meter system and 60 miles of water mains, including a main that runs under Maple Avenue in Barrington, over the next 20 years.

“We’re running out of time to do that before we see water quality issues,” Marchand said, referring specifically to cast-iron mains that must be cleaned and lined of deposits.

All of the above requires a boost in revenue, which has been dropping because rate payers have been conserving water. The average rate payer in Bristol County uses 41 gallons of water a day, far less than the state’s goal of 65 gallons a day, she said. 

The authority already has reduced costs, Marchand said, by cutting debt service, negotiating a favorable contract with the union and reducing retirement expenses. All that remains is to raise rates – by 12 percent next year and 4 percent a year on top of that for four more years.

“I guess we don’t have the water system we thought we had,” said Warren Town Councilor Joe DePasquale. “Now we need a big increase.”

Bob Venice December 25, 2012 at 11:08 PM
Saint Delise! This is going to be the new name given to Pasquale Delisi by the citiens of Warren, Barrington and Bristol, after her Royal Majesty, Pam Marchand, and her nine court jesters get done with increasing cost of the water rates over the next five years for just treating Water brought in from other towns. The BCWA must be done away with now, before it buries all tax payers.
Joe December 25, 2012 at 11:19 PM
Why you cannot believe the BCWA Then 1. Per Sandra Mack’s “"14 answers" document she handed out at the January 25, 2011 East Bay Patriots Forum: "Redundant transmission pipelines are critical to the ability of the authority to deliver water 24/7 every day of the year. Remember that the authority’s connection to Providence water supply lies under Narragansett Bay. Because it is under the bay at depths down to 160 feet, inspections and repairs are very complex and will require extensive time to accomplish. Based on industry standards, a pipeline such as this will have a life expectancy of 50 to 65 years with systematic inspections and necessary maintenance." http://bristol-warren.patch.com/articles/water-authority-answers-14-questions-on-shad-pipeline And now, on Page 28 of the BCWA plan regarding the useful life of the East Bay Pipeline, they say it's 80-120 years. Because they want to say this now so that they don't have to put any money into it. It would appear some is lying about the pipeline. Was there no actual lifetime in the original contract? Or did some pipeline fairy sprinkle magic dust on it extending the lifetime by 55 years. What a patent that dust would be.
bustopher1 December 26, 2012 at 03:13 AM
Christmas day and all you people can do is spend your time carping? How sad your lives must be.
Gary Morse December 26, 2012 at 11:43 AM
Back to BCWA. Here are some facts: The BCWA 2011 Performance Audit outlined in detail their high labor costs: http://bristol-warren.patch.com/articles/water-authority-performance-audit-shows-excessive-labor-costs-2 The new labor contract locked in those costs with a "no layoff" clause where it appears not a single production employee will be impacted by the shutdown of the water treatment plant. The benefit packages are still out of line with benefits provided in the private sector, and even with most government sector jobs. I admire the union for its work on behalf of its members. It's management and the board I call into question who have failed to examine parity with water authorities like East Providence. They have never done that simple task. Then there is the statutory mandate of the 1993 Bristol County Water Supply Act. That mandate required ongoing legal advice by their attorney who was charging BCWA $495 per hour. At this point, it appears not only is BCWA relying on $6.9 million in state taxpayer money they may not be entitled to, it also appears BCWA might actually owe money back to the state ($1.7 million) for transfers in 2001 for work on the water treatment plant before the Shad Pipeline was installed. This is the mess we have, in part, because BCWA is not under the Public Utilities Commission (PUC) and instead run by unqualified volunteers. BCWA should finally be placed under the PUC for the sake of its rate payers.
John Tattrie December 26, 2012 at 07:06 PM
@ Bobby Venice, my second attempt at answering you, sorry This site doesn't agree w/my computer at times. It would take a Legislative change and a three town vote in agreement to send the BCWA packing down-stream. Question is do the Towns give the New Director the chance to prove she might be able to make this work, or do they really consider not throwing any more money at this place and turn it over to a (United Water) type outside contractor to run? The Three Towns have a serious amount of consideration to give to this request, this is just money for everyday operations, "That's not a good sign"....these funds don't account for any other projects or issues that may arise during their request time or unfinished projects that presently have no funds. While I would like to think the new director has the ability to pull this place out from under the rock, it's really not looking good overall. If you do the math, that is a very big chunk of cash, even after being spread out over five years. The issue is Pasqual, left this new Gal with nothing to work with, she has no choice but to ask for the funds.

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