People of Egremont
This letter is to inform you of the Water Commissioners business plan for Egremont’s Water Enterprise fund (EWEF), otherwise known as the water company. I must preface this letter by saying that I do not speak for the members of OneEgremont, the finance committee or in any other capacity than a private citizen. I must also state that I do have a bias against the plan of the (EWEF). I do not believe that the town should formally take on the bond debt of the (EWEF) since we are already responsible for any budget shortfall. To formally take on that debt guarantees Egremont taxpayers will be subsidizing the (EWEF) in the amount of $117,000.00 per year for the next ten years. It will also mean that this $117,000.00 will not be considered in the (EWEF) annual budget and make it appear as though the (EWEF) is profitable which it has never been.
As you know the (EWEF) was set up to purchase and operate the water company for the town of Egremont. It is a private entity which serves just over 200 households including about 20 Great Barrington residents. This enterprise was set up to run independently of the town by three elected commissioners; yet the town of Egremont is responsible for any budget shortfall. This means that all monies that are not raised by (EWEF) through grants or fees must be subsidized by our taxpayers, 80% of which cannot benefit from the water company services. Since the town is already liable for any (EWEF) debt it seems unnecessary to transfer it to the annual town budget.
When the town decided to purchase the water company they were assured by all the committees that studied the issue that this endeavor would not cost the taxpayers “ONE THIN DIME”. Since that time it has cost the Egremont taxpayers close to a million dollars in subsidies to the (EWEF). If we vote to transfer the debt to the town, we guarantee that we will subsidize the (EWEF) to the tune of $1,170,000.00 over the next ten years. To add insult to injury, any monies raised by the (EWEF), so called profits, through grants and fees in excess of the budget will not go back to the town. According to the charter, the way the (EWEF) is legally set up, any “Profit”, by law, has to go into capital improvements for the (EWEF) or back to the users.
This water company issue will likely be put on the warrant for the next town meeting. The voters, or more accurately those who show up for the annual town meeting, will decide if they want to burden the entire town with the (EWEF) debt. Ironically, the voters have already unwittingly burdened the town with the (EWEF) debt when they voted to buy the water company in the mid 90s. Back then they did so with the understanding that it would be financed through grants and user fees, not the taxpayers. However, if they vote to take over the debt they will do so with the full understanding that it will cost the taxpayers 1.2 million and all monies spent will be irretrievable by the town.
I say all this to inform the voters that if they want to defeat this measure they will have to pack the town meeting with people who vote no on this issue. You see, in a town hall form of government the voters choose how much money the town can spend and where it will be spent. You must also motivate your friends and neighbors to come out to the annual town meeting and vote their conscience. The bottom line is that we the people have to direct our elected officials to spend our tax dollars in a fair and equitable manner. We have already been saddled with this water company boondoggle once; we do not have to throw good money after bad by burdening ourselves with even more debt for a water company that cannot sustain itself without taxpayer subsidies.
If you want to find out more information on this issue, or want to tell people where to get this information, all are welcome to come to the OneEgremont meetings and hear a full disclosure of the facts and figures. If you have any questions or want to share your view with your elected officials there is supposed to be a public meeting sometime in Feb. This meeting will be a joint meeting between the Board of Select, the Finance committee and the water commissioners. As this is a very important issue affecting the town I hope that this meeting will be well attended by the citizens. As soon as any meeting is scheduled I intend to send out an email as to the date, time and place.
Thank you for your time