Finance Committee will discuss procedures with City Treasurer-Collector for new and existing residential buildings
The Malden City Council intends on looking into how rates are set and the various charging procedures for one of residents’ most basic needs— water usage.
Councillors at Tuesday night’s meeting voted unanimously to refer a resolution originated by Ward 4 Councillor Ryan O’Malley and Councillor at large Karen Colon Hayes “to explore alternatives to the current water and sewer rate tiers” to a joint committee meeting at a future date.
Specifically, the Councillors’ resolution asked for discussion on the topic ” to bring more equitable rates to two-family and other multifamily homes, including but not limited to, sub-meter account billing for individual units to reflect actual per unit consumption.”
On an 8-0 vote, a motion was unanimously passed to refer the resolution to a future joint meeting of the Finance and Public Works committees.
Councillor O’Malley said he was particularly interested in receiving information on potential alternatives that might offer some rate relief to Malden residents in addition to providing protection to tenants who might be getting billed directly by landlords for water usage.
“I have received a number of letters and other inquiries from residents asking about alternatives to how they are now being billed,” O’Malley said at Tuesday’s meeting. “Some landlords are buying their own (water) meters and tenants have questions about tiers and (rate) structures.”
Councillor O’Malley noted that water-sewer rates and tiers and a desire to receive more and newer information on this subject was originally proposed in previous years by Council President Barbara Murphy (Ward 5). Councillor Murphy said, “This remains an interesting topic, which has a lot of facets to it.”
O’Malley, the primary sponsor of the resolution, said his primary intention was to seek information and that he was “looking to get ahead of the issue” as the Malden water-sewer are customarily set on July 1 each. “Separate billing, submeters, it is all something we should talk about,” the Ward 4 Councillor said.
O’Malley then invited City Treasurer-Collector Daniel Grover, who was sitting in the audience at Tuesday night’s meeting to come to the podium to speak with the Councillors.
O’Malley said he had also already discussed the issue with other city officials, including Chief Financial Officer-Controller Charles Ranaghan.
Grover said he agreed with the intention of the resolution in that “conversation and dialogue on (water-sewer) rates are positives.”
Grover noted that “Rates are determined by consumed and the water consumption is directly gauged by the MWRA.” The MWRA is the Massachusetts Water Resources Authority.
Grover made several key points in his brief address to the Councillors, affirming Malden uses tiered rate setting but spoke against submeter account billing for multifamily residences by the city of Malden.
“It (submeter billing) would be cost prohibitive since you would need individual pipes coming out of the meter and into the separate residences.
“Submetering is something we would not want to pursue,” Grover said. “One big reason is that we do not have a mechanism to bill tenants if they move, if they were on some sort of submetering.”
Councillor O’Malley said he would be interested in discussing the issues regarding water-sewer rate setting at a future joint committee meeting. “I appreciate the explanation on the tenant/landlord dynamic,” Councillor O’Malley said. “It is something we would like to discuss further.”
Other Councillors agreed with the move to discuss water-sewer rates ahead of the actual rate-setting is done by outside consultants.
“We are having a new consultant (for rate-setting) and I would like to see how he intends to set the actual rates,” said Ward 2 Councillor Paul Condon. “It’s a good resolve. Anytime we get an opportunity to look at (water-sewer rate setting) objectively, it’s a good thing.”
Ward 3 Councillor Amanda Linehan said, “I had a conversation with Councillor O’Malley on this issue and it is always valuable to use a good opportunity to understand about the parity or equity of the process. “When you rent, you don’t pay attention much to rates since (water) is included, but as a homeowner, this is a significant expense,” Councillor Linehan added.
“I’ve talked with many residents about water-sewer rates as well and I welcome the opportunity to discuss this issue further,” said Ward 3 Councillor Carey McDonald, who also serves as chairperson of the Council’s Finance Committee.
“I’m happy to be a sponsor of this resolve,” said Councillor at large Karen Colon Hayes. “With times as they are now, with prices increasing, we have to help residents find ways to save.”
The motion to send the resolve to the joint committee meeting in the immediate future passed unanimously, 8-0. Voting in favor were Councillors Peg Crowe (Ward 1), Paul Condon (Ward 2), Amanda Linehan (Ward 3), Ryan O’Malley (Ward 4), Council President Barbara Murphy (Ward 5), Steven Winslow (Ward 6).
Ward 7 Councillor Chris Simonelli, Ward 8 Councillor Jadeane Sica and Councillor-at-Large Craig Spadafora were not in attendance at Tuesday night’s meeting.