Barrington Town Councilors said on Monday night that they plan to explore an alternative to the Bristol County Water Authority.
The BCWA is scheduled to meet today at 5:15 pm at its office in Warren, with a vote on proposed water rate increases expected.
“Why not an alternative? Why not an option since it is now a water delivery system?” said Barrington Town Councilor Ann Strong at Monday night’s meeting in Town Hall. “They’re not making water anymore.”
Her fellow councilors seemed to agree. They voted to endorse her creation of some sort of "exploratory committee" that would probably include members from the two other Bristol County towns, Warren and Bristol, that rely on the water authority.
The water authority, in fact, has been distributing water sent to Bristol County from the Scituate Reservoir by the Providence Water Supply Board for many years. It only operates the treatment plant in Warren one day a month. And it is hoping to build a new pipeline through East Providence that brings in water from Pawtucket as a backup supply.
Strong asked: Is it necessary to have layers of bureaucracy and engineering between the three towns and its water source, with heavy-duty salaries and expenses simply to distribute water?
“We can start small, but still look at all the issues,” Strong said.
Town Councilor Bill DeWitt, a liaison to the BCWA, asked Strong if she was suggesting a change in the business model — or simply a push to make the water authority more efficient.
That could be the mission of the exploratory committee, she said.
“I don’t feel it works best in its current form,” she said. “What works best?”
Town Council President June Speakman said it does seem like the time might be right to explore other options, including locating other “water distribution entities” that could serve as models.
“It no longer treats water, and it doesn’t have it own source,” Speakman said of the BCWA’s movement completely away from relying on water from reservoirs in Massachusetts.
Longtime water authority watchdog Gary Morse of Barrington said the committee must look at the “hard numbers” as it explores alternatives.
“What’s missing are the hard numbers,” he said, referring to an audit done early in 2012 by the B & E consulting firm, which suggested having an independent consultant look at and come up with a “rigid set of cost controls.”
The BCWA was founded in 1986 with passage of the Bristol County Water Act; it purchased the former private Bristol County Water Company.