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Fair Water Prices

Just and equitable. That's the standard Massachusetts General Law (MGL) has established for water and sewer prices and rates that a town, through its water commissioners or selectmen can charge.

According to MGL Chapter 41, Section 69B, they "may regulate the use of the water and fix and collect just and equitable prices and rates for the use thereof." In case "a net surplus should remain.the water rates shall be reduced proportionately." In Longmeadow's case, according to Paul Pasterczyk, "substantial revenues are expected from the new rate changes." We will be left with an $825,000 profit, entitling us to a reduction. As far as just and equitable, the rates are not equitable as there are four (4) different rates for different volume users. This is not equal for all.

According to MGL Chapter 83, Section 16, sewer commissioners or selectmen may "establish just and equitable annual charges for the use of common sewers."."Either charge a uniform fee for residential properties and a separate uniform fee for commercial properties or establish an annual charge based upon a uniform unit a fair and equitable manner." Our pricing for sewers is anything but uniform as we have four (4) different rates for different volumes, thus not equal for all.

As you can see from the above, our Water and Sewer Commissioners the Select Board have not complied with the law. Neighbors have different rates for their water and sewer fees based on varying usage. Our pricing is neither equitable nor uniform.

According to the above sections of MGL, our new "conservation rate structure," (also known as an ascending rate structure) where charges for water and sewer depend on the volume used is against the uniform fee or equitable rate requirement of the law where everybody must pay the same rate. The law is in place to protect ordinary citizens from "gimmicky" pricing schedules, like this, that are difficult to follow. The larger the volume the lower the unit cost in the real world of commerce, not the opposite now in place in Longmeadow.

The Water Commission stated on their new rate card, mailed in July, that there are "looming increases" in water purchased from Springfield. Also increased costs to enforce environmental regulations. They never identified or put a dollar figure on these new costs. With 2008 water and sewer revenue projected to be $3,862,203, up from 2007 $2,443,014, an increase of $1,419,189 giving us a profit of $825,000 after certain expenses. This figured out to be a gross increase of 58 percent.

Both the rate card mailed to our homes and the news article in the Sept. 25, 2007 Republican, emphasized the 15 percent rise in water and sewer rates. We have found the average customer to be paying between 50 percent and 60 percent more than last year. Even Hal Haberman, chairman of the Select Board, was shocked and surprised when he got his water bill with a 50 percent increase. We must address this problem now, not next year as Haberman suggests.

Susan and Sam Altman