Royalston sewer rates set

  • Members of Royalston's Selectboard and Sewer Commission met Wednesday to set sewer rates for the current fiscal year. From left, commission member Gary Winitzer, commission Chair Marie Mello, Selectboard Chair Deb D'Amico and Selectboard member Chris Long. DPW Director Keith Newton has his back to camera. ATHOL DAILY NEWS/GREG VINE

  • Members of Royalston’s Selectboard and Sewer Commission met Wednesday to set sewer rates for the current fiscal year. From left, Commission Chair Marie Mello, Selectboard Chair Deb D’Amico and board member Chris Long. ATHOL DAILY NEWS/GREG VINE

For Athol Daily News
Published: 12/14/2019 6:55:34 AM
Modified: 12/14/2019 6:55:33 AM

ROYALSTON – Following a lengthy discussion, Royalston Selectboard and Sewer Commission voted to set sewer rates for the 55 residences tied into the municipal sewer system.

The move comes several months later than normal. Much of the discussion revolved around exactly who should be sending the bills.

Bills for the first half of the fiscal year were sent in September by the town’s Tax Collector, Beck Kraue-Hardie, who is responsible for collecting personal and property taxes, as well as some other municipal fees.

Selectboard member Roland Hamel said, “She can’t do it all. Under the Selectboard, we have the Department of Public Works, which the treatment plant falls under, and the director has an administrative assistant who, if we could offer her more hours, could be responsible for the sewer billing.”

“The reason the collector does the sewer bills,” said Commissioner Gary Winitzer, “is because of the town bylaws, which defines the duties of the tax collector, who is responsible for ‘collecting all fines, fees, and other receipts of the town.’ So, you can say she shouldn’t have to do it but that’s what the job is by bylaw.”

“In the town bylaw,” commission Chair Marie Mello interjected, “it says she collects the money. Well, she would still be collecting the sewer money, it’s just that someone else should be sending out the bills.”

Once the rancor had subsided, the Selectboard and Sewer Commission voted to officially establish the rates for the year. Residents tied into the sewer system are charged based on how many toilets, or units, are in their household. The rate was set at $738 per unit. Senior citizens on the system receive a 15 percent discount.

Because first-half bills were already sent out, those for the remainder of the year will be adjusted to reflect the rate established.

It was ultimately determined that it would be too late to change the bylaw or assign the duty of sending out the bills for the second half of the fiscal year to someone else.

There was also some heat generated over the commission’s failure to send out a so-called commitment letter confirming the sewer department budget, which had been set at just over $70,000 by Town Meeting voters.

The letter would normally have been sent in September. However, Wednesday night’s meeting was the commission’s first since June.

Addressing her comments to Winitzer, Selectboard member Chris Long said, “If this letter should have gone out in September then you, as outgoing chair, should have helped the incoming chair to understand that. The incoming chair doesn’t automatically get information conferred upon her about what’s supposed to happen. You had an obligation to inform the rest of the committee about what was supposed to happen.”

Winitzer defended himself by noting a final budget wasn’t approved by Town Meeting until October.

“How are we supposed to commit when you’re going to have a special Town Meeting in October?” he asked. “In order to do the commitment it has to be approved by Town Meeting.”

Mello provided documents indicating that $44,895 of the annual $70,203 budget has been expended since the start of the fiscal year July 1.

The life of the Sewer Commission, meantime, is running out. Earlier this year, residents voted to abolish the commission. The move requires approval of the State Legislature. Thus far, the measure has been approved by the Massachusetts House and now awaits action in the Senate. Once the legislation has been enacted and signed by the governor, the Selectboard will serve as the town’s sewer commission.

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