A boost in water rates appears inevitable each year over the next five years. Just how large the rate increases will be for Bristol County ratepayers is the question.
“We need a 12 percent boost in revenue next year,” said Allan Klepper of Barrington, chairman of the Bristol County Water Authority. “Then we’re looking at revenue increases of 3 percent each year over the next four years.”
That does not mean a 12 percent boost in rates this year or another 12 percent over four years after that, Klepper said. Those are boosts in revenue – not rates.
The water authority is working with a consultant on a water rate study, he said. That study will determine the new proposed charges for each customer class. Businesses will pay a different rate than homeowners, for instance. And the state demands a "conservation" rate, he said, which BCWA already has. The less you use, the less you pay per gallon and vice versa.
Of course, said Klepper, “We will be holding public hearings on all rate proposals.”
Because the BCWA’s fiscal year starts on March 1, he said, those hearings will take place in January and February.
The boost in revenue is based on the water authority’s plan to interconnect with the Pawtucket Water Supply System as an alternate source of water even as several major issues remain unresolved, Klepper said in the BCWA’s monthly report to the Barrington Town Council last week.
BCWA is supporting the state’s plan to connect it through East Providence to Pawtucket, the report says. To that end, the authority has voted to contribute 25 percent or $56,250 of the estimated $225,000 engineering project design cost subject to the remaining costs being contributed by East Providence (25%) and the state (50%).
Since this project would qualify as a regional interconnection, the funding for the construction of the project would also be borne by the state, EP and BCWA in the same percentages — provided that each party has funds available to it, Klepper said in his report.
BCWA is faced with a “unique set of circumstances” since it is subject to the Water Supply Act, Klepper said. First, it is legally required to maintain the Shad Line, the existing reservoirs and the Water Treatment Plant.
"This is costly," he said.
The Act now requires the state to fund all expenses for those purposes. The state has within its control approximately $6.9 million of bond proceeds for this purpose. If the state and BCWA drop the Shad project, the legislation must be amended.
Klepper said the BCWA wants to protect that $6.9 million while changing the legislation so it can concentrate on the Interconnection Project. Meanwhile, the state has told the BCWA that it is preparing amendments to the legislation for “defeasance” (make null and void) the allocation of the $6.9 million from its original intent.
This makes it questionable if the $6.9 million can be reallocated to BCWA for the interconnection project, Klepper said.
“The elephant-in-the-room is if and how the state intends to replace those funds so that they may be applied as our contribution to the new project,” Klepper said.
If this is not clearly identified, the fiscal burden will again fall upon our ratepayers,” he said. “We cannot let that happen.”
Klepper told the Town Council that the BCWA plans to brief all elected officials in Barrington, Warren and Brisitol and the public on this situation.