A public hearing for a proposed water rate increase will be discussed on Monday, Sept. 9 during the Town Council meeting. Residents may review the following meetings posted on the North Kingstown website where this issue was previously discussed during Town Council Meetings:
• June 10, Section 5
• July 15, Section 24
• Aug. 19, Section 28
We would like to present the following facts to clarify the issue:
• Presently, the water department, an enterprise fund, is in possession of a surplus in excess of $8,000,000. The water department had a surplus of over $600,000 last year and has enjoyed a surplus of $200,000-$600,000 per year for several consecutive years. The recommended capital balance for this department is $2,000,000. Jim Lathrop, town financial manager said on July 15: “The Water Department is very sound financially.”
• Due to staffing transitions, capital improvements were largely delayed until staff could be adequately trained in the intricacies and nuances of our water system.
• Ideally, the Water Department would communicate with the Public Works Department and RIDOT to coordinate line replacement so that our roads would not be cut into more than necessary. This would prolong road integrity and reduce our costs of road maintenance. Presently, this coordination is occurring more by chance and less by actual plan.
• Both of us have requested at the three previous meetings listed above, a list of planned line replacement in order of priority in year 1, year 2 and years 3-5. To date, we have not received this list of priority, estimated costs and anticipated schedule.
• The town presently awaits an Infrastructure Replacement Plan to compliment the Rate Study. This is yet another study that we are required to obtain and pay consultants to produce.
• Age is not the only or best factor to assess line replacement.
• The Town of North Kingstown, through its excellent financial management, is enjoying an interest rate of 2% on our cash reserves in various local banks. That $8,000,000 is earning $160,000/year in interest.
Considering the absence of the Capital Replacement Plan, coupled with the annual surpluses and interest earnings on the capital reserve, the discussion should be surrounding a rate freeze or rate reduction. Approving a rate increase at this time is nothing short of putting the horse in front of the cart. We are yet to be in receipt of all of the facts to make an intelligent decision.
We encourage residents to write to the council and/or attend the public hearing on Sept. 9 and weigh in during public comment.
The authors are members of the North Kingstown Town Council.