The Board of Selectmen narrowly approved an increase in water and sewer rates Monday night, meaning ratepayers will fork over an additional $29 a year in fiscal 2014.
Serving in their capacity as water and sewer commissioners, selectmen OK’d a proposal by Town Manager Reginald “Buzz” Stapczynski to increase sewer rates by 8 percent. The vote was 4-1, with Chairman Alex Vispoli voting against the measure.
However, the town manager’s initial request for a 2.5 percent water rate increase failed on a 3-2 vote. Voting against it were Vispoli, Paul Salafia and Dan Kowalski. Voting in favor of it were Brian Major and Mary Lyman.
Vispoli had argued that Stapczynski should have brought the rate increases to the Board of Selectmen for a vote prior to the May 7 Town Meeting so that voters would know what the rates were before acting on the new fiscal budget.
Salafia argued that the town manager’s justification for the water rate increase — that the town needed to bump up its water reserve in case of emergency and because that was “tradition” — didn’t make sense.
“We don’t need reserves to be so large,” Salafia said. “I haven’t seen any evidence of a catastrophe. My sense is, we have room to save money. My hope is we can save the money.”
Kowalski said several times that he wanted the town manager to create a 10-year plan for the water and sewer departments, rather than the five-year plan he presented at the meeting.
“Is there more information you can bring back to the board to better justify the increase?” he asked. “If we had more information in July or August, could the board change the rate then?”
Stapczynski said the new water bills need to go out in July and that delaying the rate change would mean putting a new rate in place during the second round of billing.