Is Aquarion Water getting free water from Cohasset?

It is way beyond the time for Cohasset to request that a professional be involved in renegotiating a new water contact.

This should be done pronto, as the Town of Hingham is seeking to purchase the water company from Aquarion. Aquarion says the company is valued at $192 million. Hingham says it’s more in the $60 million range. Aquarion’s Cohasset water customers complain of poor service and no pressure. Hull customers are just worried.

Leonora Jenkins, chairman of the water commission, told selectmen at a recent meeting that: “NO WATER IS GIVEN or SOLD TO AQUARION WATER (the private company that owns Hingham Water).” Immediately I thought “that sounds wrong.”

Found in my piles of town documents, both the draft and the final operations agreement between the Town of Cohasset Water Commissioners and Aquarion Water Company dated October 30, 2003.

In 2011 Cohasset’s forensic accountant show an unaccounted water rate of approximately 40 percent, right up there with Chelsea and Brockton, just before both those communities went into receivership. The forensic accountant made no mention of a water contract with Aquarion in 2003. Perhaps there were attachments to this documents that the auditor did not see. Hmmm.

Perhaps, like Ms. Jenkins, the auditor didn’t know about the water contract that our town counsel was asked to look at for FORM ONLY. That means counsel was asked only to say if it was legal to give, what this writer thinks it says, delivery of water to Aquarion beyond the amount sold to Linden Ponds. It appears that Aquarion does  not pay for that water and is not expected to do so.

On Page 3 of the contact WITH AQUARION, probably written by Aquarion, without our town counsel contributing any sage advice, it is stated:

 (4) Subject to the provisions of (1), (2) and (3) above, if requested, Cohasset agrees to make Commercially Reasonable and Diligent efforts to provide Aquarion with an amount of water greater than the Hingham Estimated Daily Consumption as long as the requested amount does not adversely affect operation of Cohasset’s system or service to its customers.

EXCEPT FROM 2011 AUDIT RE CONTRACTS:

No mention of a water supply contract here. Was it buried in the management agreement with American Water or just buried in one of the drawers from which all documents vanished? 

The 2003 contract, (v) Article III, which deals with water quality is interesting. We see language that compels Cohasset to assure finished water quality and to monitor flow and pressure, as well. This costs money (which is the same as cash, to paraphrase the great philosopher, Yogi Berra). It would be interesting to see whether Cohasset’s full costs of treating and delivering water to the connection point are recovered in the pricing formula that is contained in Section 1 of the main WSA agreement. (vi) We do not see the same duties set forth where Aquarion’s obligation to deliver water to Cohasset is concerned – a little one-sided or a tip to the fact that nobody involved in the drafting of the agreement ever expected that Aquarion would deliver any water to Cohasset.

It should be noted that according to Jenkins and others, Aquarion writes no check to Cohasset. The question is, is someone else getting a check?

Overall assessment by Tinytown Gazette’s contract expert:

  1. Sloppy draftsmanship with fuzzy language on procedures can hurt in a document that is meant to define a complex 3-party business arrangement. Where the public interest and interests of good government are concerned, spelling out procedures for consent to changes in quantity, quality, price, etc. is particularly important. Grade = D

2. Where were Cohasset’s attorneys when this document and the other WSA documents were being prepared for Town officials to sign? Why did they not see to it that any water Aquarion delivered back to Cohasset (if that was actually intended and expected to happen) was of equivalent quality to the water that Cohasset has to deliver? Without equivalent quality where a swap of the same commodity is concerned, an exchange cannot be equivalent in value unit-for-unit.

  1. Without accurate measurements of water volumes delivered and received and without records it is impossible to determine whether the Operations Agreement was adhered to or whether the actual outcome of applying the Operations Agreement was fair to Cohasset. So all we are left with is a sloppily drafted document that contains a lot of loopholes for fun and games and does not stand on its own, needing to be plugged back into the main WSA document to be understood and applied with full legal force.
  1. I could not find any language in the Operations Agreement that clearly spelled out a procedure or method for the adjustment of the bill for water delivered by Cohasset to reflect deliveries of water by Aquarion.
  1. Two additional questions: A. does Cohasset have a functioning master meter at the interconnection site now? If so, what are the readings for volumes of water being delivered currently? 2. Has the MWRA published its Annual Water and Sewer Rate Survey that serves as the basis for price increases for water delivered by Cohasset under the WSA recently? If so, what is the difference between the index rate for water vs. the 2003 index number?

 

© Copyright 2014 Tanna K, All rights Reserved. Written For: Tinytown Unleashed
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