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Water Rate Hearing Draws Nearly 300

Milford residents spoke angrily Wednesday of a proposal by the Milford Water Co. to increase rates by 83 percent.

Describing a proposed water rate increase of 83 percent as "outrageous" and "inconceivable," Milford residents and officials blasted the request at a public hearing Wednesday.

The hearing filled the top floor of Milford Town Hall to beyond-seating capacity. Nearly 300 people attended. Residents stood along the windows of the meeting space, and many took seats in the balcony section.

In comments, frustrated residents said they felt trapped by a private water utility that is their only source for drinking water.

"The Milford Water Company is a monopoly," said Mary Langford. "We don't have another water company to turn to. It's a huge problem. I'm appalled. That's it."

Another resident, Mark Cabral, pointed out that Water Company customers will get hit twice by the increase, with increased home bills and taxes, because the town will pass on its higher water bills to property owners.

"They already hit us once, and now they're hitting us again," he said.

The public hearing was organized by the state Department of Public Utilities, which has authority to either grant, reduce, or deny the proposed rate increase.

State Rep. John Fernandes (D-Milford) drew applause from the audience when he criticized the company's application. “It is inconceivable that any credible business would come to its customers and say, ‘We raised our prices by 33 percent a couple years ago, and we need to raise them again by 83 percent. Keep buying our water'," Fernandes said. "It’s just not credible.”  

Fernandes said he and state Sen. Richard T. Moore (D-Uxbridge) share the view that the suggested water rate increase is, in one word, “outrageous.”

Town officials noted that with the sluggish economy and working- to middle-class demographics of the town, the increase would be too much for many residents. They criticized the management of Milford Water Company, since the 2009 boil-water order. In that episode, town residents and businesses were required to boil their drinkng water for almost two weeks, after samples revealed bacterial contamination.

The impact of an 83 percent increase in water rates will be felt by small businesses, large industrial users, the town government itself, and small households struggling to pay bills, officials said.

"This is not a wealthy community," Fernandes said. "This is a community of middle-class families who work hard. We have a high percentage of the population that is on fixed income.”

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Brian Murray, chairman of the Milford Board of Selectmen, told the DPU hearing officer that many families will find it hard to pay the increased bills. “The negative effect that this proposed increase will have on the residents and businesses of our community cannot be overstated," he said. "During this time of supposed economic recovery, good-paying jobs are still scarce.”

Murray described what will happen to the cost of water service for Milford residents:

  • An average family of three paid about $265 this past year for water. Under the proposal, their rate would be $486 per year, an increase of $221.
  • An average family of five now pays around $970 annually for water. Their water bill would increase to $1,744, a hike of $766.

Dozens of town residents shared their own stories about being on fixed incomes, or struggling to pay bills. They also described the service of the company, giving examples of low water pressure, and receiving frequent notices of contamination levels that exceed state and federal limits.

The Water Company filed its rate request proposal in October, seeking to generate additional revenue to cover the construction of the new water treatment plant. The facility is under construction on Dilla Street and is expected to be operational in spring 2013.

The size of the rate request took town officials by surprise, Instead, the filing application sought 83 percent, across the board, for all customers.

Editor's Note: People who were not able to attend the public hearing can mail written comments to: Mark Marini, Secretary of the Department of Public Utilities, Department of Public Utilities, 1 South Station, Boston, MA 02110, Docket No. 1286.

For additional coverage of the Water Company request, including past stories, please click here.

Eric in Milford December 13, 2012 at 12:12 PM
The Water Company knows how to play the game. They don't want an 83% rate hike. I'm sure they really want something like a 40% rate hike. Always ask for an obscene increase.and then "settle" for a lower amount. The politicians and officials knash their teeth and claim to be outraged on behalf of the people. They then give them the 40% rate hike, pat themselves on the back and claim victory in "sticking it to the Water Company". Residents are then "relieved" to not have to pay the 83% rate hike and only have to pay 40%. Meanwhile, the Water Company is smiling all the way to the bank. They got what they really wanted.
Mark Cain December 13, 2012 at 12:25 PM
Eric from Milford, you hit the nail perfectly!!! Exactly what I was going to say to the letter.
Mary MacDonald (Editor) December 13, 2012 at 12:26 PM
For people who were unable to attend last night, the following address is for written comments: Mark Marini, Secretary of the Department of Public Utilities, Department of Public Utilities, 1 South Station, Boston, MA 02110, Docket No. 1286.
Lisa Vasile December 13, 2012 at 01:07 PM
I went to the meeting. Many brave speakers with 100's of valid comments about the lack of responsibility and lack of empathy the Water Co. has had over the years in keeping their customers safe & heard or their equipment, facility, our pipes and our health as priorities.... however there was no mention of the fact that the owners (and most employees) don't LIVE in Milford. Our family invested in a house filtration system to protect our family from cancer causing TTHM's and it is utterly ridiculous that we are trapped into paying near double for water and domino of HUGE tax increases due to town funded water use!! ABSOLUTELY a "Monopoly" (Noun) The exclusive possession or control of the supply or trade in a commodity or service.
Deb December 13, 2012 at 01:11 PM
Before too many people go complaining in this column, let's just say that if you were not there, assuming you could have been there, then there is no need to complain here. Everyone in attendance last night had an opportunity to be heard and possibly make a difference. I was there for almost 3 hours and people made lots of good points. That is what public hearings are for. Or, since Mary posted the mailing address, those who couldn't (or wouldn't) be there have somewhere to voice their concerns and be heard. Mary, thanks for posting that!
Amanda coleman December 13, 2012 at 01:42 PM
out of 30,000 people in the city of Milford only 300 attended. Sad
Carolyn Kahn December 13, 2012 at 02:11 PM
I was at the meeting last night & I agree that the MWC is asking for an obscene increase so that if/when they get the 35-40% increase they actually WANT, there will be less of a hue and a cry from the town. They have been holding us hostage for years now because we, as residents, can't get their product from another source. We have been given sub-standard water that most of us can't/won't give our families due to contamination and are expected to pay whatever they want to charge us because we CAN't go anywhere else. What they have been doing to us all is criminal. Clean water is a basic human right, not a privilege.
Deb Nilan December 13, 2012 at 02:54 PM
Amanda, many of us planned on attending however couldn't due to other commitments. I will be writing a letter of complaint...thanks Mary for posting it as I strongly urge all to do. Does anyone know why the town of Milford can't take over the water supply and why it has to be private? Just curious.
Doodledad December 13, 2012 at 03:02 PM
I know that some of the Board members live in Milford...but let's see the whole Board list. OF those that DO live in town, what do they think? As for the comment about if you weren't there then don't say anything...remember that 10% of the town population is a high rate of representation. 30000 people couldn't fit in the town hall anyway...
Carolyn Kahn December 13, 2012 at 04:27 PM
I was told previously that we can get a question listed on the next ballot regarding the take-over of the MCW by imminent domain if a petition is submitted with a minimum 100 signatures. If we (the residents) are paying for the new facility anyway, we might as well own it & not let MWC make anymore profit from us.
Mary MacDonald (Editor) December 13, 2012 at 05:02 PM
Just heard an update on mailed comments: people who want to mail letters to the DPU, they have to be postmarked by Friday, Dec. 14.
Live and In Color December 13, 2012 at 07:01 PM
28,000. About 2000 get their bills paid by us taxpayers as well, why would they care.
Colleen December 13, 2012 at 07:28 PM
Please mail letters. This tax increase CANNOT go through!
MilfordMomof3 December 14, 2012 at 12:00 AM
mailing my letter in the morning. If it passes, we will wait for the market to go up a little and sell. It would make more sense to move out of town or rent.

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