December 07 2018,  Lynnfield

LCWD scorned by selectmen for lack of transparency

 By Christopher Roberson

 

The Board of Selectmen voted unanimously, during its Dec. 3, meeting to authorize Town Counsel Thomas Mullen to prepare legislation that would alter the “enabling legislation” pertaining to the organizational structure of the Lynnfield Center Water District (LCWD).

The selectmen also instructed Town Administrator Robert Dolan to inform Lynnfield’s state delegation of the board’s decision.

Robert Almy, former manager of the Santa Barbara County Water Agency in California, said he has been monitoring the LCWD for quite some time. “I’ve had a number of concerns that I’ve expressed to the district,” he said.

In addition to the transparency problem, Almy took issue with how Water Commission meetings are conducted. He said that during the last meeting on Nov. 26, the commissioners deviated from what was listed on the agenda.

The Open Meeting Law states: “although a public body may consider a topic that was not listed in the meeting notice if unanticipated, the Attorney General strongly encourages public bodies to postpone discussion and action on topics that are controversial or may be of particular interest to the public if those topics were not listed in the meeting notice.”

Almy also called attention to the LCWD’s Special District Meeting scheduled for 7 p.m. on Dec. 10 at Lynnfield Middle School. During the meeting, customers will be asked to vote on the construction of a $5.2 million greensand filter at the Glen Drive pumping station. If approved, representatives from the LCWD’s engineering firm, CDM Smith, said, the filter will resolve the ongoing problem of discolored water.

However, Almy said there is still a need for additional information about the project. He also said there has been no feasibility study or preliminary engineering, yet the LCWD is acting like those steps have already been taken. “I personally am not satisfied that they’ve supplied the public with sufficient information,” he said.

Board of Selectmen Vice Chairman Phillip Crawford agreed that a full study should be done before customers are asked to vote on the greensand filter. “It seems very premature to spend $5.2 million on a filter system,” he said.

Crawford also suggested filing a restraining order or an injunction against the LCWD and its commissioners, should they continue to act in a defiant manner.

Customers will also be asked to vote on a $250,000 study to draw water from the Massachusetts Water Resources Authority (MWRA) to keep up with the heightened demand for water during the summer months.

“The local supplies are constrained, there’s no doubt of that,” said Almy.

Although tying in with the MWRA is still an expensive proposition, Dolan said, the cost could be somewhat lower as the agency shifted its business model following the unprecedented drought that plagued the region in 2016. “The MWRA is now in the business of trying to get more customers,” he said.

Dolan also announced that LCWD Superintendent Kenneth Burnham will be retiring on Jan. 1. “Everyone owes a debt of gratitude to Ken Burnham, who has been here 48 years,” he said.

Board of Selectmen Chairman Richard Dalton said it is wrong to have three water commissioners on the Search Committee to replace Burnham, calling the process “a sham.”

In that regard, the Open Meeting Law states: “a preliminary screening committee must consist of fewer than a quorum of the members of the parent body.”

Dalton said the water commissioners chose not attend the selectmen’s meeting despite being invited on Nov. 30. “They have cut off conversations with us because they don’t like what they hear,” said Dalton. “The suggestions we made were ignored.”

Resident John Scenna said he does not want Lynnfield to be known as a town with discolored water. “We want to solve the problem and we want to solve it correctly,” he said. “No one should have dirty water.”

Scenna also said it would be more economical to purchase water from the Lynnfield Water District rather than tying into the MWRA.

Resident Patricia Campbell said the selectmen and the LCWD need to work in a cooperative manner. “I don’t like the tenor of what’s going on, it’s not a contest,” she said.

Campbell also said that the MWRA’s water sources are all above ground, making them susceptible to “pollution and terrorism.”

Selectman Christopher Barrett said the district’s water quality is simply unacceptable and that he and his colleagues continue to look for answers from the LCWD. “It is beyond repulsive that people have to live with this,” he said.

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