22 May 2012
Cohasset has seen a lot of drama over the past 20 years or so, where its water system is concerned, culminating in a management contract/concession RFP that came nerve-wrackingly close to the edge, where the risks of unknown costs and came into play.
However, come second session of Town Meeting on Monday night, the clamor for risk and radical measures was replaced by a measured tone and well-reasoned action. The Town’s water commissioners and BOS took note of what voters and the water industry were telling them and did the right thing.
Article 32 (a grant of discretion to water commissioners to negotiate a concession or a long-term management contract with unknown terms) was pulled. The water commissioners announced that they would move forward under prior authorization with the process of selecting of one of the 2-year management proposals that came in under historical and expected prices. This choice was not only the financially savvy option but the most ethical and responsible one with respect to stewardship of the public interest.
So much for what is obvious and uncontroversial. Now comes the third rail.
We have never met, talked with or otherwise communicated with the Town’s retiring manager (Mike Coughlin) and hold no brief for or against him, but the best advice that Cohasset’s BOS and water commissioners heard at Monday’s meeting came from this gentlemen – when in doubt disclose!
Against a backdrop of decades of system failures, substandard operations and nonexistent financial controls and reporting that Cohasset leaders have been working hard and with some success to remedy, it makes no sense to follow opaque procedures when letting the Town’s next water system management contract. The final draft of the proposed contract should be published for comment on the Town’s website and allowed to circulate for a reasonable number of days before it is executed. With reliable financial records, visibly improved maintenance (i.e. regular flushing of mains, etc.) and a transparent procurement process, Cohasset can dispel suspicions that the sorry past is somehow the prologue to the future.
Restoring the integrity of the Town’s water delivery system was step one in the process of rehabilitation. Getting a functional financial reporting system in place was the second. The next step will consist of restoring confidence in governance. Transparency will be a vital part of that process. It is something that Cohasset’s volunteer leaders are well equipped to deliver.