Water Regulations on Tap

New state regulations concerning the water supply for the town of Rochester led members of the town’s Water Commission as well as representatives from Tata and Howard, a water and wastewater consultant, to the Board of Selectmen meeting Monday evening.

According to Tata and Howard Vice President Patrick S. O’Neale, the new regulations will have an effect on 200-plus homes in town that have public water.

“Probably in the long run, [the new regulations] will affect the town itself,” O’Neale said.

According to O’Neale, re-permitting that is set to take place in 2015 for towns who purchase water will eventually put restrictions on the amount of water used by homes that have public water.

“With re-permitting, there’s going to be pressure on the water suppliers to limit withdrawals,” O’Neale said. “If you limit water use, and you have the same expenses, then the water rates will go up. There will be some trickle down effect when that happens.”

According to O’Neale, the state had already extended water permits from 2011 until 2013, and then again in 2013 until 2015.

The potential limits could involve limitations involving droughts, when the state can limit the use of water. Currently, when there is a drought, someone with public water can water his or her lawn every other day. Under the new standards, they would only be permitted to water once a week and not between the hours of 9:00 am-5:00 pm. There would also be a list of other potential changes to accompany the new water restrictions.

“That change is coming in the form of a new bylaw,” O’Neale said. “It’s a pretty big change when you’re coming to communities that are used to watering their lawns.”

Town Officials and the representatives on hand said that they would continue to meet with the town to determine what changes they need to make in the future regarding the re-permitting and subsequent changes.

In other news, Finance Committee Chair Kristian Stoltenberg was on hand to discuss the potential proactive hiring of a full-time Assessor for the Town for Fiscal Year 2015, something that he says that the Board of Assessors has been unwilling to discuss with the Finance Committee up until this point.

“There is no attempt on our part to tell the Board of Assessors how to run themselves,” Stoltenberg said. He said that they were merely asking for a meeting to discuss the potential for a full-time assessor, but so far, they have not cooperated.

“We just want to have a free-flowing discussion,” Stoltenberg said. “All I’m asking is for a little bit of consideration.”

According to Massachusetts’ general laws, the decision to hire or not hire someone lies with the Board of Assessors themselves.

Diana Knapp of the Board of Assessors was on hand to represent them, and she read a letter from the Board basically stating that at this point, they were unwilling to consider hiring someone new, though they were open to having members of the Finance Committee attend their next meeting.

“I was a little amazed that I got this response,” Stoltenberg said, “but I’ll take the challenge. If they say I can come to this meeting, then I will.”

“I think it’s always been a goal of the Assessors to have a full-time assessor,” Selectmen Chair Naida Parker said. “I would hope that the Assessor would take the opportunity to meet with [the Finance Committee]. I think that now is the time – as you get further along in the budget process – the amount of available monies that you can allocate must shrink.”

All in all, Stoltenberg seemed pleased that some progress had finally been made in the communication between the two groups.

“The fact that [Knapp] was there was a good show on their part,” Stoltenberg said. “This is an opportunity for the town. It’s a great opportunity.”

By Nick Walecka

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