Changing Sewer-User Fees Rejected By Town Meeting

November, 2016

At Annual Town Meeting, Article 18 (Sewer User Fees charged by Actual Metered Water Method) the Selectmen/Sewer Commissioners voted against the interests of the single families, seniors and those who conserve water in the Town of Salisbury.

According to them, it is perfectly fair for the Town of Salisbury to charge senior citizens $480 a year (for 20,000 gallons of water) to use the sewer and “flush the toilet” . They also think it is fair to charge a family of 5 (who might use over 60,000 gallons of water) the same $480 a year.

By their vote, the Selectmen showed a bias against a “certain” group of minorities in favor of a “cash cow” for the Sewer Enterprise Fund. They did this by overcharging single family households, those who conserve, senior citizens, small families, small businesses and seasonal properties.

The US EPA recommends estimating average much less.

If a household uses less than 60,000 gallons per year, they are overcharged because the town uses the flat fee method (currently $480 year per unit).

Kevin Henderson (of the Warrant Advisory Board) spoke at the meeting and incorrectly lead people to believe that the issue being discussed was charging seasonal vs. year round users.
In order for a fair and equitable system of charging for sewer use, each user should be billed by the wastewater processed according to each users water.

epsteinfinalonlineSewer user fees are paid by choice for use of sewer system – it is not a tax.

Selectman, Chuck Takesian said he was in favor of ‘actual water’ method and that the selectmen will be “studying” this. As a side note: the Town has been “studying” this since 1990. That’s 26 years.

For Valley Patriot readers who remember the September, 2016 story “Harrington Softens” on sewer usage – he appears to have changed his mind since facing Salisbury Citizens for Change. When Manager Harrington had a chance to follow with what he said at that meeting, he did exactly as his critics predicted, and he hardened his stance on the issue. Years of complaints by town residents about the way Salisbury charges for sewer user fees have fallen on deaf ears once again.
At the actual Town Meeting, Town Manager Neil Harrington incorrectly claimed that the vote that night was to change the “rate”, adding that only the selectmen can determine the rate. This, despite the warrant article clearly spelling out that the “rate” was used to determine the bill for each user based on their actual water usage.

Town Counsel Thomas McEnaney also mentioned the “rate” was determined by the selectmen and based on his “opinion” of the statute.

Gracemarie Tomaselli, the petitioner of the warrant article, read Massachusetts General Laws to the voters: “…but the charge shall be assessed in a fair and equitable manner”. Both McEnaney and Harrington refused to address the correction of their previous statements.

During the discussion several people left Town Meeting under the impression that the issue was not going to be voted on.

Tomaselli then explained that way the town charges now is the same as having four people going to dinner where one person has lobster, and everyone else has hamburger, but the guy who had lobster wants to split the bill evenly.

The vote was 77 against the article, 75 in favor. While members of Town meeting called for a recount, Town Moderator Jerry Klima rushed to adjourn the meeting.