Water Politics

With the delivery of the new water bills I have received many calls due to the increase in rates. The process of determining a rate has been mired in political mud, and the resulting methodology employed by the City Council has led to higher bills than were necessary for a large segment of Methuen’s population. A quick recap of these events shows that the City Council formed a sub-committee to recommend a water rate that would support the approved budget. This sub-committee worked for months and finally recommended a tiered water rate. A tiered rate is what Methuen has used for years, and would have protected the average and below average users from the type of increases a flat rate has imposed. I strongly urged the Council to approve a tiered rate, and provided data that showed the advantage to 85 percent of Methuen’s population from such a rate. During the course of our many presentations to Council I was criticized because one of the tiers (in the average to moderate use area) actually produced a smaller bill for some residents. After literally months of gridlock the City Council passed a flat water rate. This rate, which the current bills are based on, flew in the face of the data showing the advantage of a tiered water rate. The Council may revisit this issue, and they should be urged to do so. A tiered rate protects the elderly, low to moderate water users, and promotes conservation. It is also strongly recommended as a condition of our state permit to draw water from the Merrimack. I will post more on this in the future, including discussion of indirect costs and how they impact the system and our taxpayers.

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