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Hingham selectmen to vote tonight on buying water infrastructure

Posted by Jessica Bartlett  June 27, 2013 05:02 PM

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Hingham selectmen plan to vote tonight on whether to purchase the local assets from Aquarion Water Co.

The vote comes with the blessing of Hingham's Water Company Acquisition Study Committee, which recommended on Tuesday that the town purchase the assets for an undisclosed amount.

“Based on our analysis of the proper price to be paid, we believe acquiring the water company will save the public more than $70 million over 20 years,” said Jonathan Asher, chairman of the committee. “After the payoff of a 20-year bond to subsidize the purchase, the savings will be on the order of $8 million a year.”

According to Town Administrator Ted Alexiades, selectmen will vote on one of three options: not to acquire the assets -- which provide water to Hingham, Hull, and parts of Cohasset; to acquire the assets under litigation; or to negotiate a purchase price with Aquarion.

If acquired, Hingham would issues bonds to finance the purchase, then pay off that debt within residents’ rates.

“The Acquisition Committee looked at three aspects in consideration for whether the town should acquire Aquarion or not. They looked at the financial, capital, and the governance model … They made it clear at their meeting on Tuesday it was a red light green light across the board,” Alexiades said.

The direction of the committee comes as a surprise to Aquarion officials, who said that though they have had a collaborative relationship with the town, they have been cut out of the process since December.

“Probably what we’re more surprised by is given how we’re working collaboratively with the town over the last year that, in the end, very little information is being shared by the committee with the residents of Hingham,” said John Walsh, Vice President of Massachusetts and New Hampshire Operations for Aquarion. “… That’s in contrast to what we’ve done. We’ve provided the town with not only the price for the water system but with a report with how we calculated that price.”

According to Walsh, under the charter formula, the price for the entire water system is $184 million.

Regardless of a potential purchase, Walsh said Aquarion is committed to working with the town.

“We’re committed to continuing serving Hingham, Hull, and North Cohasset [though] the charger does give the town the right to buy the water system based on a formula to calculate the price.”

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