Andover Townsman, Andover, MA


April 10, 2014

Taxpayers see 5% water rate hike

Officials keep sewer rate status quo


That settlement is being paid for at least partly out of the water enterprise account, which is funded by water rates.

At last week’s hearing, however, the emphasis was on how much money employees at the water plant are earning.

Selectmen Chairman Alex Vispoli read off a list of salaries and overtime costs, noting that in some cases, Water Department employees were making as much money as department heads in town.

One employee, he said, makes a $64,000 salary, with $53,500 in overtime, for a total of about $121,000. He went down a list, without naming names, of a half-dozen employees whose overtime is exorbitant.

“To me, that’s a red flag,” he said. “In the private sector, you’d say that’s not sustainable.”

Cronin countered, however, that four years ago he went before the Board of Selectmen, which included Vispoli, and asked for approval to hire two more employees to keep overtime costs down.

“You voted against that,” Cronin said.

He added that the real costs of running the Water Department are in the pipes and equipment needed to distribute water throughout the community.

Selectman Dan Kowalski said the increase in the water rate was essentially the town paying for the sins of the past.

“We are paying now for 12 years of no water rate increases,” he said. “How much infrastructure work did we do? North Andover has zero miles of unlined, cast-iron pipe. We have 170 miles of unlined, cast-iron pipe. The only way to do it is to raise the rates.”

But selectmen weren’t so keen on raising sewer rates.

Selectman Brian Major proposed two sewer rate increases — one for 2.75 percent and another for 2.5 percent — but both failed for lack of a second. The board then voted 3-2 in favor of a zero-percent increase in sewer rates, with Major and Kowalski opposed.

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