Andover Townsman, Andover, MA

News

January 14, 2014

Toxic sludge case costs top $1.1M

Water customers, taxpayers will foot payout, legal fees

(Continued)

The town’s $450,000 share of the settlement will come out of the Water Department’s reserve, or surplus account. There is currently $2.9 million in the water reserve account, which is generally used for infrastructure upgrades, Stapczynski said.

But that’s not the only cost related to the case that will hit ratepayers.

According to a breakdown of town costs provided by Stapczynski as the result of a Freedom of Information request made by the Andover Townsman in November, the Department of Public Works spent $322,065 on the case from fiscal year 2011 to fiscal year 2014.

The DPW spent about $6,000 in 2011, $88,000 in 2012, $191,000 in 2013 and $37,000 this year. Those funds, Stapczynski said, were drawn from the water surplus account.

Stapczynski said the town attempts to keep about 20 percent of the total water budget in the reserve account, which would come to $1.35 million. The account is currently well above that as the town is working to beef up the reserve fund so it can pay for repairs on the water system without having to borrow money.

Taxpayers, meanwhile, have been hit with the legal costs in the case, amounting to about $336,500 over a three-year period. The town paid its regular law firm, Urbelis and Fieldsteel, about $116,000 over the three years and outside counsel, Sherin & Lodgen, $220,000 from 2012 to 2014.

Stapczynski said the money for legal fees came out of the legal department budget, which generally runs around $450,000 a year. He said if there is a shortfall, he would have to go back to Town Meeting for additional funds or transfer money from another department.

Selectman Dan Kowalski, however, has argued all of the costs should be paid for out of the Water Department.

“Other funds have been expended outside of water to pay legal fees and I think the board needs to discuss and determine if fees that have already been paid should be refunded from water reserves,” he said. “If we are looking for the Water Department to be a self-sufficient fund, you’d expect all expenses associated with water funds to come out of that.”

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