April 30, 2019 By Carol Britton Meyer
Now that the town is buying the water system serving Hingham, Hull, and part of Cohasset, a transition plan is taking shape, including the transfer of the water company property to the town.
"We had a meeting with representatives from Aquarion the day after Town Meeting and look forward to working cooperatively on the operational transition," Selectman Karen Johnson told the Hingham Anchor.
Recently, following the April 22 affirmative Hingham Town Meeting vote supporting the town's acquisition of the system at a purchase price of about $108 million, Aquarion Vice President of Operations John Walsh told the Hingham Anchor in an email: “Aquarion will continue to operate the system, including keeping assets in good repair to maintain the continued provision of safe, high-quality water, until the Town of Hingham is ready to step in, at which time we expect a smooth transition.“
Johnson weighed in from her perspective. "On the governance and operational side, we will proceed with putting together the structure we proposed to Town Meeting — the appointment of the Transition and Evaluation Committee and the Citizens Advisory Board," Johnson said. "We will post the Water Superintendent job and begin the hiring process, review the RFP (Request for Proposals) with the Department of Environmental Protection to be sure it accurately describes all of the regulatory requirements for a qualified water operating company, and post that request."
The expected savings to Hingham, Hull, and Cohasset ratepayers over the 30 years of the loan is roughly $48 million, Hingham officials say, and about $7.4 million more annually once the debt is paid off.
As Johnson noted at the recent Hingham Town Meeting, there are a number of state agencies that may have some involvement in this transfer including the Secretary of Energy and Environmental Affairs, the Department of Environmental Protection, the Department of Public Utilities, and the Attorney General’s Office.
"We will work affirmatively and cooperatively to ensure the seamless transfer of both water registration/withdrawal rights as well as the development of a comprehensive regulatory business plan for the water delivery system," she said.
After reviewing the engineering studies relating to the acquisition, system-wide priorities will be set for capital projects.
As per three related affirmative Town Meeting votes, the Selectmen will serve as water commissioners, a self-supporting enterprise fund will be established, and the transition team will go about its work of taking care of every detail.
A citizens advisory board will play a role and will include three Hingham representatives and one each from Hull and Cohasset.
The rates are expected to remain the same for all three communities, according to Hingham officials.