Milford Town Assembly votes to buy private water company
MILFORD – With only 14 ‘no’ votes, Milford Town Meeting Monday approved a purchase of $ 79 million of the privately held Milford Water Company.
The city was trying to buy the business for years, following an extended boil-out order in 2009, caused by bacterial contamination. In the following years, there was a trial and a scandal in which a former manager tried to bleach samples so that they test without bacteria.
All along, officials reminded residents, the company has significantly increased its rates.
“As I think we all know, this body is being called upon to make one of the most important decisions ever made by the Town of Milford meeting,” said Select Board Chairman Michael Walsh . “It is time for the people of Milford to take charge of their destiny when it comes to the quality and availability of the most vital resource: water.
The purchase required two-thirds approval from Town Meeting. The final tally was 145 “yes” votes versus 14 “no” votes.
A handful of officials told residents Monday night was a historic vote, and Walsh and State Representative Brian Murray, D-Milford, used the word “fate.”
“Do we want to be the ones to tell our children and our children’s children that we have been lucky, we have had the opportunity to control the fate of our water resources and we have said no? Asked Murray, who was elected to town before becoming state lawmaker. “We said that a business that is looking to make a profit will do a better job.”
Among those who opposed the vote last night, some rose to express skepticism that the city could keep rates under control.
Former Selectman John Seaver said the $ 6.5 million in federal COVID-19 relief money the city is using to offset the costs of owning a water company should be used for other efforts in Milford.
“We hear… it’s private and it’s abusive. Nothing could be further from the truth, ”Seaver said, noting that the company is a public utility governed by the state’s Department of Public Services. “If we already have control over the water company, why do we have to duplicate it with local control? We have high quality and low cost, and we are in control now. Let’s leave him alone.
Officials said they plan to use the $ 6.5 million in federal funds, as well as profit from what Finance Committee member Christopher Morin called “a perfect storm” of good financial circumstances. . The water system will then operate on a corporate fund, which means that it will be self-financing, without using money from the general fund or other departments.
“I think the most important thing we need to talk about (is) can we afford it?” The answer is absolutely, ”said Morin. “Things couldn’t be better for our acquisition of Milford Water Company. “
A board of directors of three elected water commissioners will run the system.
“Now we have the option of owning this facility. We will have a direct financial interest in what happens, ”said Paul Mazzuchelli, member of the Board of Directors of Select. “We will now have better control to ensure good water quality and healthy, cost-effective measures to improve our water supply system. “
The purchase should not be final until December. The city must complete a checklist of items, including a closer look at the company’s asset list, decide on a bond term – considerations range from 30 to 40 years – and sign the contract for buying and selling.
CFO Zachary Taylor has said he does not plan to spend the total authorized amount of $ 79 million, saying he is optimistic the price could be $ 76 million or less.
Alison Bosma can be reached at 508-634-7582 or at [email protected] Find her on Twitter at @AlisonBosma.