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Selectmen miffed they weren't told about water rate hike

Posted by Sarah Favot  February 11, 2011 10:05 AM

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At their meeting Thursday night, selectmen expressed frustration they weren't informed beforehand about the hike in water fees this month. They also allocated more money to the town’s snow removal budget, and began the process of making Alba Lane a public road.

The Dedham-Westwood Water Commissioners met with the selectmen to explain why they raised fees without informing the board beforehand. Some of the selectmen were concerned that they found out about the hike by reading about it in the newspaper last week.

Selectman James MacDonald said some residents might think that the water district was sending a mixed signal by saying to conserve water, but then raising fees because revenues are down because more people are conserving.

“We’re using less water and you’re charging us more,” MacDonald said to the commissioners. “Those conserving more feel as though they’re being penalized by the district.”

Water district business manager Michael Thornton said that conservation is a double-edged sword, but penalizing the residents wasn’t the district’s intent.

According to the water district's website, the impact for the resident who uses the minimum amount of water will be an extra $24 to $57 a year. The average household uses 65,000 gallons of water a year, resulting in a yearly bill of $394. After the hike, this will increase to $455.

Selectman Carmen DelloIacono said that other commissioners usually come before the board before raising rates. He asked for more open communication from the water commissioners.

“To read it in the paper was unfair,” said DelloIacono.

DelloIacono said he would be putting in a request to Dedham Cable TV to televise the water district’s meetings when possible.

At the meeting, the selectmen voted to reappoint Kenneth Bragg as a Dedham water commissioner. Bragg has been a commissioner since 1999.

In other business, the board also approved appropriating an extra $600,000 to the Department of Public Works’ snow and ice removal budget. So far this winter, snow removal has cost the town $1.2 million.

Town Administrator William Keegan said that the DPW is trying to keep costs down by limiting snow removal at times in between snowstorms.

DPW Director Joseph Flanagan "is trying to trim removal,” said Keegan. “There is more winter left, and he’s trying to keep costs down.”

The selectmen also decided to begin the process of making Alba Lane a public road. There will be a public hearing before the matter is taken to Town Meeting to accept the road.

The selectmen have rarely accepted roads as public ways, according to chairwoman Sarah MacDonald, but she said this road, located off Washington Street right before Traditions, is an exception.

“This is a new road that was built to town standards and is up to code,” she said.

Sarah Favot can be reached at sarah.yourtown@gmail.com.

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