Months after promising to have a cost breakdown of Hingham’s water infrastructure, the town’s utility company is still collecting data and figuring out a price.
Aquarion Water Co. initially promised it would analyze the system that runs through Hingham, North Cohasset, and Hull in April in order to provide a cost rundown for Annual Town Meeting.
The utility offered to compile the data to prove it wouldn’t be cost effective for the town to purchase the infrastructure from the private utility company.
Despite the company’s protestations, Hingham approved a $320,000 feasibility study to analyze the cost and ramifications themselves. A Water Study Committee has since been formed to aid in this quest.
Aquarion officials have since been working to compile the data on the cost of the infrastructure, which they told the town they would have by June 15.
Yet, “for whatever reason, they couldn’t get it to us on time,” said Selectman Bruce Rabuffo.
Aquarion has told the town it hopes to have it to committee members by July 2, just in time for a public hearing on the cost scheduled for July 11.
The reason to the delay is mainly due to the size of the task, said Harry Hibbard, Vice President of Operations for Massachusetts
“It’s taken longer than we have hoped. June 15 was probably a bit optimistic. It involves going back through 130 plus years of records in order to put together the basis for the numbers. But we are diligently working to get the info to the town as soon as possible,” he said.
According to Hibbard, the charter that allows Hingham to purchase its infrastructure from any utility calls for the town to pay the original cost of the system plus 10 percent interest per year.
Rather than extrapolate what Hingham cost the utility when it was purchased along with 45 other towns in 2002, Aquarion is going back to what it cost when the infrastructure was built.
For some areas, those records go back more than 100 years.
“As you can imagine, not every record is available, and we jumped through a number of hoops, went through our archives, went back through DPU to see if they had records that would fill in gaps. It involved a lot of scrambling to find the basic support records,” Hibbard said.
So far, Aquarion estimates that the system will cost in excess of $100 million.
Whether Aquarion is right in its analysis will be up for discussion once the numbers are revealed, Rabuffo said
Even still, the decision to come to the table and provide the information without litigation is promising, Rabuffo said.
“I can understand why they want to vet it, and as they have stated, they don’t have to do this, but it makes it easier for both parties. Given the way the law is written we could come to some understanding of what the price is,” he said.
Rabuffo was unsure what might be the next step if an agreement on the price couldn’t be reached.