On July 14, the Waitsfield Water Commission decided to offer up its entire emergency reserve fund “as an act of good faith” to the Waitsfield Select Board in order to help pay for the 2014 water main break.
The Waitsfield Select Board should accept their offer and ask no more of the water commission. Commissioners have expressed in past meetings that they want to make sure that rates for users do not increase in what is already considered to be an expensive system. The Waitsfield Select Board would be wise to make sure that doesn’t happen.
The water system may have been implemented under a promise that its users would bear all of the costs, but that is unrealistic and unfair. The select board decided to add a fire suppression system and the water users are currently paying for it. The system is also a crucial part of our economic system as it provides water to our commercial district.
Simply put, the town needs the water system.
Since users are currently paying for the water system and because adding more users is the only way to bring the cost per user down, attracting as many people as possible to hook onto the system is the water commission’s primary goal. Commissioners initially tried to do so with cheaper early connection fees, but it now costs $3,000 to hook on and they have discussed reducing that cost to once again bring in more users.
The idea that the water commission should pay for the entirety of the water main break has been thrown around and if that were to happen rates for users would double. This would be disastrous. Not only would new users be greatly deterred but residents and businesses could be in danger of not being able to afford water.
It currently costs $800 per year for most residential users and part of the reason that the cost is even that high is because the users, about 100 residents, are fronting the cost of the fire suppression system. A $1,600 bill per year to fix it would be wrong.
Although the water commission is tasked with overseeing the system and advocating for its users, it is simply an arm of the select board and the success of the water system is ultimately the select board’s responsibility.