March 7, 2019 by Carol Britton Meyer
One of the most talked-about issues in town these days -- and over the past several years -- is whether the town should purchase the Aquarion Water Company system serving Hingham, Hull, and part of Cohasset.
The Town of Hull will host the Hingham Selectmen Thursday, March 21, to engage in a discussion about the proposal. The estimated purchase price, not counting associated costs, is about $108 million.
The Hingham Selectmen earlier voted unanimously to place four warrant articles related to such an acquistion on the April 22 Town Meeting agenda. A two-thirds vote is required to approve the purchase.
During a three-hour meeting Wednesday night, the Hingham Advisory Committee Water Company Sub-committee discussed the warrant articles relating to the proposed acquisition, appointing the Hingham Selectmen as water commissioners, establishing a (self-supporting) water system enterprise fund, and appropriating money to cover transition costs if the proposed acquisition wins voter approval. The idea of a separate elected board of commissioners was also floated by a member of the audience.
Sub-committee member Robert Curley called the potential acquisition both a "privilege and a burden" because of the benefits -- including a projected savings of $50 million over 30 years -- and also the responsibility of running such a water system.
Selectman Mary Power promised that if voters decided in favor of the purchase "we're not going to bill people for more than what it costs to run the system."
If the purchase goes through, she explained that water rates will remain the same as they are now in year one only. "That will give us the ability to establish a surplus of $4.8 million," she said. "That money will remain in the enterprise fund."
It was also mentioned that Hingham’s bond consultant has confirmed that such a purchase would not affect the town's AAA bond rating.
During the first year following any such acquisition, the town intends to engage in what Power called "two important studies" related to necessary capital improvements and the cost of water service.
Reminder: The Hingham Selectmen will host the first of several informational sessions this Saturday, March 9, at Hingham Town Hall from 1 to 3 p.m. Residents of Hingham, Hull, and Cohasset are welcome to attend.
The sub-committee will meet again at Hingham Town Hall to further discuss the warrant articles this Sunday, March 10, at 11 a.m. Watch the Hingham town website for further meeting information at hingham-ma.gov.
The sub-committee will make its recommendations about the warrant articles to the full Advisory Committee, whose own recommendations will be included in the Town Meeting warrant that is mailed to every Hingham household.
This meeting was recorded and may be viewed on the Hingham Harbor Media website at harbormedia.org.