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Water Company Acquisition on September 26 Special Town Meeting Warrant

Town Meeting Members will decide next Tuesday, September 26, whether Milford should spent $63 million to buy the privately owned Milford Water Company and create a town department overseen by an elected Board of Water Commissioners.

Specifically, there are five articles on the warrant up for a vote:

• Article 1would allow the town to purchase the Milford Water Company for $63 million; determine whether that sum should be raised and appropriated from taxes, transferred from available funds or borrowed; and, authorize the Board of Selectmen to finalize the purchase and transfer the utility's operations to the town. Finance Director Zachary Taylor said the town intends to borrow the money through long-term bonding.

• Article 3 would formally establish a town-owned water supply and water distribution system and enable the town to then maintain and operate it.

• Article 4 would establish an enterprise fund for the town's water supply and distribution operations. Such a fund – which the Sewer Department uses – would allow the Water Department to be funded from the user fees it charges, rather than from property taxes.

• Article 6 would authorize the Board of Selectmen to ask the state government for special legislation enabling the town to borrow funds for up to 40 years to establish the water system and acquire the Milford Water Company's assets.

• Article 7 would authorize the Board of Selectmen to ask the state government for special legislation allowing the town, once the Milford Water Company is acquired, to legally dissolve the Milford Water Company and turn its assets over to the town to be managed by the Board of Water Commissioners. The article states that any employee of the Milford Water Company who wants to be employed by the town shall be transferred to the Water Department and will not be subject to Civil Service laws.

Town Counsel Gerald Moody explained that if the first article does not pass, then the other four would be passed over – meaning no action will be taken on them.

There also are two other articles on the Special Town Meeting warrant that the Board of Selectmen decided – if Article 1 is approved – to pass over until the October 30 Special Town Meeting:

• Article 2 would transfer available funds to be used for any legal, engineering or other expert consulting services needed to carry out the final transfer of the Milford Water Company's assets to the Town.

• Article 5 would raise and appropriate from taxes or transfer funds to be placed into the enterprise fund to allow the new Water Department to operate during the transition from the Milford Water Company to the town. The article states these funds would be paid back to the town upon terms to be agreed-upon by the Board of Water Commissioners and the Board of Selectmen.

Selectmen voted to approve the warrant at a special meeting they held on September 11, just prior to their public forum on the water company acquisition.

At May's Annual Town Meeting, Town Meeting Members passed an article authorizing selectmen to ask the state government for special legislation allowing the town to create a Board of Water Commissioners who would be appointed by the Board of Selectmen until they could be elected at an Annual Town Election. That legislation was almost through the State House of Representatives' reviews and votes as of September 8, State Representative Brian Murray, D. Milford, said, adding the next step would be passage by the State Senate.


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