Water and Sewer Retained Earnings Discussed

            Before beginning his FY22 budget proposal presentation during the February 11 meeting of the Mattapoisett Finance Committee, Mattapoisett Water and Sewer Superintendent Henri Renauld responded to a question from Chairman Pat Donoghue about rate increases. “Every year you come before us with expenses around 2 percent, then suddenly there are rate increases. How do we look at revenue versus expenses?” asked Donoghue.

            Renauld explained that “A few projects came in over budget,” such as the Pease Point water and sewer project that he said was over by approximately $220,000. He noted that the overage had to come out of retained earnings, leaving that fund at a low of only $51,000. He said it became necessary to look at rates to bring in more revenue. When asked, Renauld said that presently retained earnings for the Water and Sewer Enterprise Funds stand at $327,000 and $317,000, respectively.

            “So, Pease cost more, do you come back to Town Meeting for more?” Donoghue asked. Renauld requested $200,000. “A grant covered 25 percent of the original bid, but the Coastal Zone Management grant couldn’t cover the difference,” he explained. “We will recoup the cost of the project with betterments.” In a follow-up, Renauld said the betterment fees were under review.

            When Donoghue asked if water rates had been increased to pay for the project, Renauld said the town’s rate is 25 percent under the current rate as reported by engineering consultant Tata & Howard.

            Renauld also told the members that a $3 million expense, Mattapoisett’s portion of a plant upgrade to lower nitrogen levels at the Fairhaven plant, was coming. The total estimated costs of the project stand at $23 million.

            On the theme of large-ticket items on the Capital Planning spreadsheet, Renauld said the sewer pipe that crosses the Eel Pond breach would cost approximately $3 million and that the town’s portion, should another Coastal Zone Management grant come through, would be about $750,000. Another sewer line project in the Hollywood Beach neighborhood would have to be pushed out to 2024, he said.

            Renauld also talked about the need to evaluate the Water and Sewer Departments’ offices and equipment storage. He said that currently, the two operations are spread out over the town at various sites, some with rental agreements amounting to approximately $3,800 per month. He said the town owns more than one property that might be appropriate for building a combined facility and that he wanted to spend about $30,000 on conceptual plans to “get a whole new building.” He said the small lot on Church Street currently used by the Water Department could be sold to offset new construction. Donoghue asked, “What about maintaining a new building?” Renauld said that would all be part of the study.

            The proposed FY22 budget for the Water Department is $1,559,960, a 0.18 percent increase, and the Sewer Department is at $826,336, a 0.2 percent increase.

            The next meeting of the Mattapoisett Finance Committee is scheduled for Thursday, February 18, at 4:00 pm.

Mattapoisett Finance Committee

By Marilou Newell

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