FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
With two council meetings remaining in 2019 before a new council and a new mayor are seated, Mayor Bob Hall and the current city council are introducing an ordinance to create a Sanitary Sewer Board without any input from the Mayor-Elect. While the Mayor will sit on this new board, the council will have full control of the future of Charlestown’s Sewer Utility by giving themselves the power to appoint the other two board members. This is the same council that voted yes to selling Charlestown’s water utility to a private company after circumventing the citizens’ petition for a vote on the sale. The ramifications of this action to the ratepayers of Charlestown are huge. Here is what is at stake for current sewer ratepayers:
- Sewer rates would be controlled by a City Council appointed engineer and another City Council appointee.* (This means that the council can, if they desire, appoint Bob Hall to this new board for a three-year term.) EDIT: I have spoken to council member Brian Hester who is sponsoring this ordinance and he assured me that, although technically allowed, the intention is not to appoint outgoing mayor Bob Hall to this board.
- The ordinance allows the appointees to be paid $1,000 a month for attending board meetings. Currently, Board of Public Works members who oversee the sewer system are unpaid.
- The ratepayers will also foot the bill for additional engineers and attorneys hired by the new Board. This alone could cost ratepayers hundreds of thousands of dollars a year.
- This action has the potential to set up a sale of the utility to a private company, mirroring what was done with the water utility.
The vote is scheduled to take place Monday night, December 2 at 6:30 p.m. at City Hall during the regular council meeting.
As Mayor-Elect, I have expressed my opposition to the timing of this ordinance to current council members. If the mayor is to sit on a newly created board, then the mayor who will hold that seat should have a voice in the board’s creation.
How well the city council works with the mayor will determine how quickly and effectively the inequalities and problems of Charlestown’s past are addressed. On November 5th the voters placed their confidence in a new mayor and in a new council to accomplish these goals. I am eager to work in partnership with the new council to help bring positive change and healthy growth to our community. The vote Monday night will determine if we are to have a collaborative and effective local government, or if we will start our new year and new administration with a destructive partisan divide.
If you are opposed to current elected officials taking the control of your utility out of the newly elected mayor’s hands, your attendance at this meeting is required. In keeping with my commitment to transparency, I have included the draft of the ordinance for you to review here: ORD 17.
I urge you to contact your current council members to ask them to vote NO on this ordinance.
If the creation of a sewer board is a good idea, then there is no reason why it cannot wait until January and include the involvement of the council and mayor the people have elected to serve for the next four years, and with the input of the citizens we serve. There simply is no logical reason to rush this vote.
Unfortunately, the current public comment procedure prohibits any citizens from speaking about this ordinance at Monday night’s meeting. I invite all concerned citizens to arrive for this meeting at 6:00 PM to gather peacefully in opposition of any radical change to our government structure that would impede our ability to move Charlestown forward.
* While the City Council ultimately sets rates with a separate ordinance, they must do so to cover the expenses and operating costs of the Sewer Board. This removes an important check between the Executive and Legislative branches by giving total control to the Council.