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DPU Will Not Decide Water Rate Hike Until After Mid-June

The state Department of Public Utilities (DPU) has published a procedural schedule indicating that it will not make its decision on the Milford Water Company's proposed 83.4 percent rate hike until after mid-June. Already, as part of that procedure, both the town and the DPU have asked the privately owned utility to answer more than 100 questions.

The state regulatory agency held a three hour-long public hearing on December 12 in Milford that was attended by about 350 people, with almost every person who spoke criticizing the water company, the quality of its water, and the size of the requested increase. "The reason why we are here is to hear the comments from our customers," said attorney Jon Bonsall on behalf of the Milford Water Company. "We welcome the regulatory review that our [rate increase request] filing will receive."

Assistant Attorney General John Geary called the requested rate hike "extraordinary," since it comes two years after the utility received a 33 percent rate increase. His office intends to investigate whether any past system maintenance practices by the water company caused the need for a new water treatment plant to be built. "The Board of Selectmen are going to do all that they can to look at this rate increase extremely carefully," said Town Counsel Gerald Moody.

Speaking on behalf of himself and state Senator Richard Moore, D. Uxbridge, state Representative John Fernandes, D. Milford, stated: "If I could capture the essence of our feelings in a single word, it would be 'outrageous.'" The rate increase request "is just not credible," Fernandes added. "There's no way that the people of this community can afford an 83 percent increase on top of a 33 percent increase."

"We need a most precious water supply for the people of this community and it has to be delivered safely, with quality and reasonable," the state representative. Until the 2009 "boil water" incident, people thought they were getting that, but then found out that they are not, he said.

"The negative affect this rate would have on the residents and businesses of our community cannot be overstated," commented Selectmen Chairman Brian Murray. The Milford Water Company is demanding more money "and it does so only because it can," he added. Describing a series of situations from the "boil water" through high levels of iron, manganese and Total Trihalomethanes (TTHMs), Murray noted that "through it all, the single constant has been harm to the community."

Referring to intervention by the state Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) to help correct the situations mentioned by Murray, Selectman William Buckley noted that "the reasons why this management team has failed us in those [SEP] documents." The water company has emergency generators at its pumping plant only because the town insisted they be put there during a past water rate hearing, he added.

Dozens of speakers then rose, one by one, to criticize the company. The first was Virginia Brenna of East Main St., who said, "This [rate hike] is going to be a snowball on top of a mountain, running down to crush us all." Mary Langford of Fordham Drive noted, "We don't have another water company to turn to." Mark Titlebaum of Briar Drive commented, "If it was any one of us running this business, we'd be fired."




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