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Rate Increases Won’t Fix Foxborough’s Water Quality Problems … Yet

Monday’s hike in water and sewer rates is only the beginning of what could be an expensive process to address poor water quality in Foxborough.

Residents fed up with paying for poor water quality will find no silver lining in the Foxborough Water & Sewer Commissioners’ decision to hike water & sewer rates Monday.

That’s because the rate increases, which take effect immediately, will not bring any immediate relief to residents experiencing brown water in town. Instead, the newly approved hikes are said to be long overdue and necessary because the town’s enterprise account currently isn’t bringing in enough revenue to cover costs.

“The enterprise account is not generating enough money to support the expenses we have,” Foxborough Board of Water & Sewer Commissioners vice-chair Michael Stanton said at Monday’s rate hearing. … “We have kicked the can down the road forgoing increases and doing what we should be doing because every other elected board in town is grabbing money two-fisted and that’s probably the biggest mistake we’ve made. We should have been more aggressive in putting the right price on [water and sewer]. Appreciation is a real cost and we’ve never accounted for it.”

Commissioners chair Bill Euerle echoed Stanton’s explanation for the rate increases.

“We need the money,” Euerle said. “We aren’t raising enough revenue this fiscal year that we are in to pay the bills for the money we appropriated last spring for this fiscal year. We are going to have to have a transfer at the Annual Town Meeting to pay the bills from reserves that was not anticipated.”

Stanton stressed these rate increases do not even begin to address the ongoing problem of water discoloration in town.

“This doesn’t include any big capital improvement plans … nothing,” Stanton said. … “It’s just keeping pace [with costs] without hitting [the water department’s reserves].”

And that means more rate increases are on the horizon as the town aims to fix the water quality issue.

“[The water quality problems] will never get fixed if we don’t raise the rates,” Stanton said. … We are going to be in a position next year where you are going to have to look at [rate increases] probably twice a year,” Stanton said. “I think you are going to be [looking at rate increases] until we come forward with a capital improvement plan.”

Stanton said the town should have been increasing water and sewer rates “two points a year” but didn’t because the board was trying to be “sensitive to everybody” following the financial collapse of 2007-08.

“Shame on us,” Stanton said. … “We should have already had four of these 6 percent increases in the last two years. … Here we are.”

DPW Director Roger Hill said while the water and sewer rates vary based on use; the best indicator of cost for average homeowners and businesses is the minimum rate. For water, that rate was $53.52 per quarter year for 750 cubic feet (5,600 gallons) or less before Monday’s 6 percent increase. The new minimum water rate, according to Hill, will be $56.73 per quarter. For sewer, the rate was $53.82 per quarter year for 750 cubic feet (5,600 gallons) or less before Monday’s 7.5 percent increase. Hill says the new minimum sewer rate will be $57.86 per quarter.

“The block rate structure in place now increases the price per cubic foot in increments, for example, from 750 cubic feet to 3,000 cubic feet currently the water rate is $ 56.20 and from 3,000 to 7,500 cubic feet the rate is $182.94,” Hill said. “Above 7,500 cubic feet the rate is $ 445.05. These block rates will also increase by 6 percent for water and 7.5 percent for sewer.”

The Commissioners added they will likely revisit the water and sewer rates in six months.

“We are not [raising sewer] 7.5 percent because we need 5 percent,” Stanton said. … “We are not [raising water] 6 percent because we need 4 percent. … We will probably be keeping a tighter rein on this in six months to see where we are and where we need to be.”

Mayfair Realty president and co-owner Kevin Weinfeld and Mayfair Vice President of Operations Rich Feeley attended Monday’s hearing to vent their frustrations regarding the water issues residents at their communities on Ledgeville Road and Chestnut Street are currently experiencing.

Feeley shared six photos recently taken by a Mayfair resident on Chestnut Street experiencing an “extreme” case of brown water.

“I will give you one reason why I don’t think I should pay a penny more [for water],” Feeley said as he handed the photos over to the town’s commissioners. … “You are asking us to pay 6 percent more for that water. It’s not right.”

The photos, taken on Jan. 24, were described by Weinfeld as looking like “somebody got stabbed in a bathtub.”

“This has been going on for years,” Weinfeld said. “I don’t want to hear that it’s going to take five more years for the next pumping station to get fixed. I don’t want to hear it will be another five years until you get down to station one. Why is it called Station One? It’s the oldest one. The line in the ground is the oldest and it should have been replaced. The station is the oldest and it should have been repaired. That’s the place it should have started. It shouldn’t have been the last place it should have been the first place.”

Feeley added the water seen in the photographs provided by the Chestnut Street resident was as bad as he’s ever seen it.

"This is every day use water ... it would not pass DEP standard ... it's just wrong," Feeley said.

Not only is the poor quality an aggravation for Weinfeld and Feeley, it is also becoming increasingly bad for business.

“We have residents calling up and saying we are going to move,” Weinfeld said. “Not just we are going to move from one side of town to the other, we are going to leave town.”

Weinfeld and Feeley said they are in the “hot spot” of the town’s water problem and as such asked the commissioners if the town would be issuing abatements to customers affected by the brown water. Euerle said the town will not offer rebates or abatements to rate payers because it is “impossible to manage.”

“We have refused every one of those requests,” Euerle said. “The problem for trying to rationalize any particular abatement is that this section of town is hit this week and another section of town is hit another week. It creates an impossible situation for us to manage. I really don’t want to be part of any rebate system.”

Hill said the heart of the problem is the old section of the system on Chestnut Street, Pumping Station Road and Mechanic Street. In order to effectively remove brown water from the system, the town will need to invest in replacing pipes and repairing pumping stations.

“It will take money,” Stanton said.

In the meantime, the town will periodically flush the system but that procedure cannot take place during the winter.

“Flushing is spring, summer and fall work,” Hill said. “We will do it, we just can’t do it now.”

To read more on the town’s water quality problem, click here.

A-Diddy January 30, 2013 at 12:42 PM
I currently rent in Foxboro, love living here and am looking to purchase a home. I would love to buy in Foxboro, but between the brown water, the power outages and the way the town handles these issues has me thinking maybe I should be looking elsewhere. I know Mansfield had power during the big outages last year, I wonder how their water is?
Dennis Naughton January 30, 2013 at 03:14 PM
Comments and Questions for the Water Commissioners: (1) Commissioner comments in this article indicate that the department has been approaching the oversight and administration of our water system on an ad hoc, reactive basis rather than developing and executing a long-range plan. This is further borne out by these sudden rate raises just to operate the system rather than fixing it. They must do better. (2) Based upon projections of future rate raise just to operate the system, people in town had better wake up before their water bill begins to rival their property tax as an annual expense--without addressing the issue of dirty water. This is a tax over which we have had no control. (3) Bill Eurle is retiring as a commissioner this year, and should be thanked for his service. However, the townspeople need to elect a successor who will not only insist on a long-range plan for the water department, but also heighten sensitivity to the need for ongoing transparency and communication with us. (4) “The enterprise account is not generating enough money to support the expenses we have,” Foxborough Board of Water & Sewer Commissioners vice-chair Michael Stanton said at Monday’s rate hearing." Explain the Enterprise Account to the townspeople. Don't get to much into your own heads and assume everyone understands your terminology.-----Continued
Dennis Naughton January 30, 2013 at 03:26 PM
(5) Tell us how much money is in the water reserve account, since you prefer to raise rates rather than use it. Explain why that is the case. (6) Describe your existing capital improvement plan for future years, together with projected costs. What capital request(s) have you proposed for the budget currently being developed? What are the costs and how do you ecpect to pay for them? (7) “We need the money,” Euerle said. “We aren’t raising enough revenue this fiscal year that we are in to pay the bills for the money we appropriated last spring for this fiscal year. We are going to have to have a transfer at the Annual Town Meeting to pay the bills from reserves that was not anticipated.” What bills were these? Why were they not anticipated? (8) What federal and state grants are available to assist with capital improvements? Who in the Water Department has grant writing knowledge and skills? (9) Water Commissioners: Do you think it might be time for you to hold a public hearing on our water issues so that you can give us a detailed explanation of our water issues and get some real input from the townspeople OUTSIDE of town meeting. I do. (10) Are you getting the message that water quality is hurting Foxborough businesses?
Deborah A Stewart January 30, 2013 at 04:08 PM
Sounds to me that the "brown water" issue is the most important issue facing the town right now. Perhaps residents should band together and attend a Water & Sewer meeting and ask questions of Mr Stanton and the rest of the board. How has their funding been impacted(if it has)by the issues with the KO over the advertizing on the water tower? Since we all need water to live it kind of feels like we are being held hostage by a W & S board and DPW that continues to provide the town with a sub par product. Time to get involved people.
Deborah A Stewart January 30, 2013 at 04:51 PM
The "enterprise account" is the account where the money went that was generated from the advertizing on Rte1. So where has this money gone? Oh wait, the funds are dwindling down because we are no longer receiving payment from the KO. I believe Mr Stanton and a BoS member as well as others were on this committee to work out an agreement with the KO. Well, how did that work out for us? Now the taxpayers are stuck paying a much higher price for water we can't drink. Perhaps if personal agendas had been left at the door the talks could have been beneficial for both parties. If this had been the case, maybe, just maybe the $$ would be there so we would not be looking at "years" to fix this problem in an acceptable time frame.
Steve January 30, 2013 at 08:26 PM
Time to put in a well!!!! I wonder how much of our water bills a going towards the funding of and expansion of the ever expanding sewer flow?? Several times over the last decade we have expended our "flow" from Mansfield.....who is paying for this?? Everyone or just those on sewer??? The water commissioners have been absentee landlords (at best) with our hard earned money!! Rates go up by double digits seemingly every other year and our service and quality has plummeted!!
Ken B. January 31, 2013 at 12:42 AM
When did the sign payments stop ? "A 50-50 revenue sharing agreement under which the Kraft Group managed advertising on the town's Route 1 billboards since 2008 expired this spring, but both parties will continue to draw revenue under an informal extension that is being observed by both parties, finance director Randy Scollins said Wednesday." http://www.foxbororeporter.com/articles/2012/07/09/news/11635026.txt
Steve C February 03, 2013 at 04:34 PM
It may to time to start collecting signatures to force the town to deal with the water issue. Lets drop the town hall debate and the turf field debate (vote these down) unless they contain an agreement to address the water issue first.
Steve C February 03, 2013 at 04:43 PM
http://www.foxboroughma.gov/Pages/FoxboroughMA_Water/2011%20Annual%20Drinking%20Water%20Quality%20Report.pdf If there were no violations on the report then how is this an issue? Who selects the testing sites? How can the brown water pictured above be within these guidelines? To many unanswered questions about the testing procedures to comment on this without more information. If anyone has some insight in to this please follow up so that the rest of us can be more informed.
Ken B. February 06, 2013 at 04:21 AM
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