Many Winthrop residents were shocked recently when they received their quarterly water bill with some reporting bills as high as $1,100.
While some are blaming the high prices on mismanagement others like Winthrop Town Manager James McKenna are blaming some residents for bypassing meters and driving up usage costs.
“There is a practice of misappropriation of water usage in the town and some have found ways to bypass meters and this unfortunately gets passed on to the consumer,” said McKenna. “We are beginning to take aggressive measures to end water theft in the town.”
In order to accurately detect water usage McKenna said residents have noticed a $150 surcharge on their bills. This surcharge, which will be added to the next 12 pay periods is to help pay for new radio read water meters that will be installed in all Winthrop homes and businesses.
The project will cost the town $1.5 million over 10 years. Half the cost comes from the surcharge while the other half will come from a zero interest loan from the MWRA.
“This will allow us to make more accurate reads of water usage and drive down costs in the future,” said McKenna. “Winthrop is hamstrung by its size, we don’t make water or treat sewage so the MWRA rate for delivery of water and sewage is high,” he said. “So now we need to be ahead of technology and not behind to ensure we get accurate reads and put an end to water theft.”
However, former Town Council President Jeff Turco, who is a candidate for the position in the November 5 election, said the latest water bills are an example of mismanagement by inflating the budget of the DPW at the expense of residents.
He said the dramatic increases had more to do with keeping budgets intact while circumnavigating Proposition 2 1/2.
“There is no MWRA boogeyman you can blame this on,” said Turco. “The last two years the cost of water and sewage for the Town was a little over $4.3 million in FY12 and it is up to over $4.7 million. Now it’s easy to blame the MWRA but they have only increased the rates by $52,000 while the Town has increased rates by $390,000 over two years.”
After Prop 2 ½, Turco argued that more people in Town government were being placed at DPW and to keep up with budget costs for the department water bills have skyrocketed.
Turco said that this was an important issue and argued that the dramatic increases over the past two years was a result of price gouging by town administrators to pay an overinflated DPW budget.
” I don’t think we should be penalizing the good people of Winthrop who pay the bills and are finding it harder and harder everyday to make ends meet,” said Turco. “Because the people I talk to are at their breaking point. I talked to a family of five who got their water bill and it was $749 for the quarter. People are paying high taxes, higher flood insurance, on top of their mortgages so we need to find a way to drive down these costs.”