Saturday, August 26, 2017

Water and Sewer Bills

This past spring I made the decision to have a new front lawn installed. My lawn had serious problems and really needed an upgrade.  What does my lawn have to do with my campaign for city council?  My new lawn needed a lot of water. 

I knew my water bill would be high due to the irrigation necessary to establish the new lawn.  I received the water bill last week and it was about $300 more than my usual quarterly bill, totaling just over $500 for the quarter.  I knew this bill was coming, essentially I saw it as a cost of my new lawn, but still it definitely caught my attention.

When I was thinking about my abnormally high water bill, I took comfort knowing it would be only for one or two quarterly cycles.  It was then that I remembered that the "average family" residential water bill in Framingham is well over $1,800.  That means my “abnormally high” bill that shook my budget this month, is pretty darn close to what the average homeowner pays every quarter.  I realized that many people receive bills like this and can't look forward to relief next quarter!

My water bill drove the point home to me that water and sewer bills cannot keep on at the same rapidly ascending pace. Combined with having one of the highest tax rates in the Commonwealth, this will become unsustainable for many members of our community.

I was speaking to a constituent recently who said to me that we can’t control our bills, as most of the increase is the MWRA.  I explained that may have been the case years ago, but now it is not.  The increases are being driven by new debt service, reflective of much of the construction work you have seen happening almost constantly in recent years.

There is no question there has been some important work done to our water and sewer infrastructure over the past 10 years.  I am sure there is a lot more to be done too.  However, we have to engage in a public discussion and deliberation to discuss how much more debt we can afford.  We first must understand what exactly we are paying for.  Then, what options are there?  Are there less expensive ways to approach the problem?  

If we do not drill down on this issue, I fear how high our rates must go.  As a city councilor I commit to seriously studying this issue with the goal or eradicating the sharp rate increases of recent years.  If we do not succeed in that quest the affordability of Framingham is going beyond the reach of many.

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