Selectmen nix LCWD legislative changes

Feb 14, 2019 by

Published February 13, 2019

By DAN TOMASELLO

LYNNFIELD — The Board of Selectmen hit the brakes on proposed legislative changes to the Lynnfield Center Water District’s enabling act during Monday’s meeting.

The selectmen originally proposed making legislative changes to the LCWD’s enabling act in the wake of several controversies that have been coming to a boil over the past year, including the recent rate increase that infuriated ratepayers and was subsequently repealed.

Selectmen Chairman Dick Dalton outlined his reasons why the proposed legislation should be rescinded.

“In January, the Board of Selectmen petitioned the General Court to adopt legislation that would affect the governance of the Lynnfield Center Water District,” said Dalton. “Since that vote, the Board of Water Commissioners voted to rescind a retroactive water rate increase and a member of the commission announced her intention to resign, which will allow voters of the district to select three water commissioners in the next three months. Based on those facts, I would ask for a motion that we rescind that petition.”

Selectman Phil Crawford made a motion to rescind the proposed legislative changes. Selectman Chris Barrett seconded the motion and it passed unanimously.

The scrapped legislative changes included a number of different components such as prohibiting district employees from serving on the commission, which previously occurred when retired LCWD Superintendent Ken Burnham served as a water commissioner for almost two terms. The changes also would have allowed the selectmen to appoint one member to the LCWD board and would have mandated three-year contracts for water superintendents similar to other municipal employees. In addition, the changes would have established regulations for forming search committees, holding district meetings and publishing annual reports.

Board of Water Commissioners Chairwoman Connie Leccese was pleased the legislative changes were withdrawn.

“I think the selectmen realized they don’t have a legal leg to stand on,” said Leccese in a phone interview with the Villager. “The district was created by statute in 1939 and it would be a difficult battle to change it.”

The water commissioners voted to repeal the retroactive rate increase last month after LCWD attorney Chris Casey questioned its legality after reviewing the board’s meeting minutes. Subsequently, the LCWD rolled back its water rates to fiscal year 2018 levels and will be issuing new bills to ratepayers by Feb. 28. Leccese said the district will be issuing refunds to ratepayers who have already paid their bill and checks that have not been cashed will be returned to ratepayers. She said the ratepayers who have not paid their bills will receive new ones by March 1.

Leccese announced last month she will be resigning from the board on March 31. She has served on the board for the past five years.

Special district meeting

The LCWD has scheduled a special district meeting on Monday, Feb. 25, beginning at 7 p.m. in the Lynnfield Middle School auditorium. The warrant was being finalized when the Villager went to press Tuesday morning.

One of the warrant articles seeks to have ratepayers vote for a new water commissioner to succeed Burnham, who resigned in January.

Wymon Way resident Rob Almy is the only candidate running for water commissioner. Carol Ann Road resident Joe Maney expressed interest in running for water commissioner, but he decided to withdraw from the Feb. 25 special district meeting. Maney informed the Villager he plans on running for one of the seats in April.

Another warrant article will ask voters to “direct the Lynnfield Center Water District Board of Water Commissioners to begin the process for recruiting a new superintendent for the position currently vacant no sooner than the 2019 annual meeting.”

LCWD Acting Superintendent Nick Couris said Almy submitted a citizens’ petition that seeks to have ratepayers make a recommendation that the water commissioners allocate more funds to the filter rebate program for residents with discolored water. LCWD clerk Christine Smallenberger said Casey was reviewing the citizens’ petition when the Villager went to press Tuesday morning.

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