Also Illegally using Sewer Funds for Construction
On November 2, 2022, the Newburyport Daily News reported that the new Lafayette Road Sewer Project had an initial estimated cost of $18.5 million and quoted Town Manager Neil Harrington as saying:
“The project is completely funded through the town’s sewer enterprise fund and that following the project’s completion, the cost will be shared among those receiving the new sewer service.”
They also quoted Harrington as saying, “So the sewer enterprise fund takes on the total cost, they will borrow that total amount, and then those people who receive new sewer will pay that back. They have the option of paying it immediately or over time, up to 20 years, and that is called a betterment process.”
This, despite the fact that the Sewer Enterprise (SEF) is paid by sewer users and not all residents of Salisbury.
This SEF is not free cash or a slush fund for politicians to use at their leisure. It’s not a loaning institution for political insiders to buy influence. There are laws governing the use of this fund with specific requirements for all expenditures. The Sewer Enterprise Fund is earmarked only for operations, maintenance, and replacement costs of equipment. It is strictly prohibited by law to use this fund for expansion of the sewer system or for new projects.
Yet, the board of selectmen, (which also serves as the sewer commission) recommended at the Spring town meeting last year that this fund be raided for expansion of the sewer system.
Town Manager Harrington and the Warrant Advisory Board unanimously recommended to approve this raiding of the sewer funds for expansions.
Harrington has said that the Sewer Enterprise Fund has extra money above and beyond operations and has erroneously called this fund “free cash”.
The reason there is extra money in this fund is because the user rates have been too high and they are not billing sewer based on actual water usage, as required by the EPA Step 3 Grant Requirement.
According to the EPA when there is a surplus in the SEF, this money should be used to lower the sewer rates for sewer users who pay into the fund.
Because there’s a seasonal fluctuation in sewer use, the fact that Harrington is charging a flat rate means seasonal residents are paying the same amount of money for sewer as a family of ten who lives in Salisbury year-round.
This has inflated the Sewer Enterprise Fund and this extra money is now being misused by Harrington and the board of selectmen to construct new sewer lines in town.
All residents on sewer and seasonal residents should know that they are illegally being charged for this new construction and expansion of the sewer system in Salisbury. ◊