Cohasset TM Article 21 “Cliff” Notes

Article 21, Citizen’s Petition to Reorganize Water & Sewer Management Simplified

by Karen Quigley

It’s really not complicated. There are a number of steps that need to be taken that make it seem complicated, but what Town Meeting is being asked to vote is not.

1. Vote to make the water & sewer commissions a combined, 5-person advisory board appointed by the Troika which puts it on the same level as Advisory and Capital Budget.

2. Vote to create the position of Public Works Supervisor.

It won’t take effect immediately. The goal is to put into motion, on a specific time frame, the steps that need to happen and which are going to a year to complete. The specifics will be brought back for vote at the next Town Meeting and a ballot vote at the 2013 elections.

It doesn’t mean the utilities will be operated in house. It simply puts the day-to-day management and oversight of our utilities in the hands of a qualified professional. It does, however, create the management necessary if/when Town Meeting so voted.

It doesn’t require but also provides the opportunity to have professional management of the DPW and Facilities.

The enterprise funds remain as they are pending recommendation by the DOR as part of their Financial Management Review slated to begin in July.

The elected officials serve out their terms, by law, and then they could remain as appointed officials.

We, as a town, must look to the past to learn from our history and use those lessons to ensure our future. Those that fail to learn from history, are doomed to repeat it.

Please Vote YES on Article 21 at tomorrow’s Town Meeting.

Karen Quigley is the main proponent of Article 21.
She is a former selectman and lives at 27 Clay Spring Road.

© Copyright 2012 Tanna K, All rights Reserved. Written For: Tinytown Unleashed
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  4 comments for “Cohasset TM Article 21 “Cliff” Notes

  1. May 11, 2012 at 2:14 pm

    You caught me.
    You know he’s the TU WATER EXPERT.
    Hopefully, all the clowns will be gone after May 21.

  2. peter decaprio
    May 11, 2012 at 1:43 pm

    Wait a minute. C’mon. You have an “Article Expert” too? Is there anyone that posts here that is not an expert on something? What an arsenal. Truly awesome to behold. Except that you continually get it wrong.

    We have few if any partnering options at the moment except for Linden Ponds. Our neighbors have always had a need – but they never seem to step up to the plate and buy. I wonder why that is? So what do you propose? We hold guns to people’s heads in neighboring towns and force them to buy something they’ve historically had no interest in? These private companies that “covet” our water, who exactly are they and where have they been all these years? I would love to talk with them. Amazing that we have just missed the opportunity. That’s some big rock they all have been hiding under.

    And what are our “outsized capital costs?” The cost to reconstruct the system? Those are the only capital costs I see and the forensic audit just completed was silent on the issue, mostly because we got a dollar’s worth of services and product for a dollar spent. Those capital costs were inevitable. Be thankful the money was spent. If you mean operating expenses than that issue will be resolved with the new contract – any new contract. The interim proposal alone, likely to be the most costly outsourced option, provides for a 30% reduction in operating expense and possibly more if we are good at streamlining operations. That is most of what has kept your rates high, and there is a difference. Rates don’t need to stay high. They will under an in-house option, but not under an outsourced solution.

    Do you guys feel like no one is listening? You’re right, they’re not, but not because you’re not shouting – you’re just shouting nonsense. Do you think the absurd scare tactics you employ regarding public-private partnerships is resonating? There is no PPP, never was going to be, and most rational people have heard us when we say assets cannot change until debt is paid off, in any case no sooner than 20 years out. And the out-of-basin water sales governed by the state are. . .governed by the state. Until the state says we can, we CAN’T sell any more water out of basin. Which gets me back to my earlier point: where have these buyers been? Nothing’s preventing us from wheeling all 306,000 gallons per day to Linden Ponds, but they only need 90,000. Why has the evil Aquarion not surfaced sooner to soak up excess production? Are they waiting for the “hotwired” deal?

    This clown show is getting tired. You need a new act.

  3. May 11, 2012 at 10:29 am

    COMMENT FROM THE TU WATER EXPERT

    Good piece by Karen Quigley and helpful history on your part.

    One thing that might be helpful to readers, though, is to point out that the PPP structure you allude to would be a public-public partnership, not a public-private partnership. This would allow for operating and engineering services from qualified private firms, but would not involve the outsized capital costs of and other factors that put pressure on water rates and services in “standard” public-private partnerships that almost always disappoint.

    On a more global level, it’s great that Cohasset has a number of partnering options, where water is concerned, but a town that owns water assets that are needed by neighbors and coveted by private companies should not feel pressured to rush into the arms of a suitor to solve its problems (i.e. partnerships should be looked at as potential opportunities).

    Decades of mismanagement may be a legitimate reason for regret and reflection but should not be the basis for capitulation, once the underlying problems are understood (i.e. the forensic accountant’s report).

    Progress is being made. Water mains have been repaired and replaced and are being flushed on a regular schedule and the water department is actually keeping records. Before Cohasset throws up its hands and laterals one of its principal assets to another player, Town Meeting should consider whether refocussing water system governance from deal making to oversight and examining Cohasset’s assets and operations to find further efficiencies isn’t the better formula to turn up solutions (like reducing the unaccounted water percentage) that will demonstrate why the Town’s water system can (and ought to) be a jewel rather than a liability.

    Based on (my) four decades of experience, the structural improvements contained in Karen’s Article 21 would be a good place to start. If Revere could do it back in 1992, when that city was threatened with receivership over its arrearages to MWRA, there is no reason why a community like Cohasset, that is no where near insolvency (in spite of its recent under-performance) and enjoys the luxury of so much local talent can’t make it look easy by comparison.

  4. May 10, 2012 at 8:24 pm

    Karen, when you first decided to take on this article, I wasn’t sure I supported it. I still like the idea of elected officials. But then I thought about my history in the town, as a former editor of the Cohasset Mariner, Patriot Ledger reporter, and for the last 20 years publisher of the Tinytown Gazette and now this blog. I’ve invested a lot of time in the political history of Cohasset.

    Over the years I have lived here (42 years) the sewer commission basically worked because Gary Vanderweil and Ted Guild devoted their lives to it. Vanderweil was an engineer, president of his own company. Guild was retired. I forget what his profession was, he might have also been an engineer, but he was the numbers man. Henry Rattenbury was the third component. Most of these men ran for office for years with no competition. Every so often someone came out of the woods to challenge them. I think Manny Salvadore challenged Ted once.

    When Guild decided it was time for him to retire they “invited” my husband, a local CPA, to come on to the board and prepare to replace Guild. I think Rattenbury was getting off at that point. My husband ran for office for all three terms with no opposition.

    And so, while the board was elected, it was also an “invitational” board. It was able to pick and choose the professionals it wanted and it worked for that reason alone. The professionalism continues on in sewer to this day. Good people.

    The Water Commission wasn’t that lucky. It’s been a problem child for many years. And the people who served on the water commission have been problematic. I’m not going to go deep into what the Tinytown Gazette discovered in 1993-1994. We discovered a board of water commissioners who weren’t doing their job. And many years of boards before them hadn’t done theirs, either. There was no engineer. Water valves were frozen open and closed. Citizen complaints were ignored. Commissioners were sterilizing their beer bottles in the autoclave (very illegal). Excessive water leaks were creating ponds all over Cohasset.

    Moving along to 2012: Water Commission Chair Peter DeCaprio is as bright as a whip but he wants to jeopardize our Town and our water supply by bringing an investor group to the table. The whole municipal water community is fleeing from concessionaires and DeCaprio is driving the concessionaire’s bus, and it’s a dangerous trip.

    Appointed boards have dangers, too – but at least with an appointed advisory board and a public works supervisor I will know who is responsible.

    The citizen’s petition allows many options – even a PPP – a Public Public Partnership with Scituate, perhaps. Unless of course, we vote for Article 32 on May 21….the continued session of town meeting. If Town Meeting votes for article 32 then there are a grab bag of possibilities in our future. None of them very nice.

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