Thursday, September 27, 2007

A shortsighted (blind as a bat) editorial

Perhaps I should stop referring to the Gazette as “crusty” (a term I stole from reporter Mary Carey). Yesterday’s editorial was hardly supportive…amazing! Most newspapers consider Conflict Of Interest and Open Meeting laws sacred.

And crusty--I mean the Gazette--has yet to weigh in on the ridiculous circumvention of Open Meeting Law by Umass Trustees powwowing at a private "retreat."

The editor seems to buy the spin generated by the Umass Public Relations Department (most notably former Gazette political reporter Pat Callahan) and they continue to use the $140,000 per year as the net “unanticipated revenues,” failing to factor in the loss of $37,800 with the effluent water waiver.

But the real loss is FAR greater than that. Umass paid Amherst $37,800 last year for the effluent used in their tired old steam plant (to provide heat in the winter). The new Super Plant will provide both steam heat AND year-round electricity. So their use of Amherst effluent will AT THE VERY LEAST DOUBLE.

And Amherst just increased across-the-board the water rates by 25%, so even if usage stayed the same Umass would pay $50,000 next year. But since usage will now DOUBLE the Select board with their 3-2 vote on 9/17 flushed down the toilet $100,000 per year for the next five years.

Hadley charges top water users $4.85/100 cubic feet or better than 50% more than Amherst charges Umass. If our illustrious water/sewer commissioners simply decide to institute that rate for high-end users in Amherst, Umass would pay us an ADDITIONAL $500,000 for potable water and $150,000 for effluent water this year.

Now that would really encourage conservation.

UPDATE (9/28/07): The Umass Trustee's saw the light and decided to open to the public their upcoming "retreat". Maybe Crusty had a little to do with it as they at least mentioned the controversy on Page One not to long ago (but their editorial department was asleep at the wheel)


Tom said...

How much does water cost in the town of Amherst?

Keep an eye out for consistency in water pricing during the town's handling of negotiations on the $37,000 discount to UMass, and the simultaneous $37,000 pricetag Jere Hochman wants to charge for public access to the Middle School pool....

LarryK4 said...

Amherst charges $3 per 100 cubic feet while Hadley charges $4.85 (for large users) and they both consider any water used as both water and sewer.

Amherst used to have a higher rate for sewer (except didn't charge Umass the higher rate) and a higher tier rate for high volume water users (that only Umass fell into) but they also nixed that during the last "strategic agreement."

The $37,000 was for the amount they used last year when they were only using the effluent for heating. We charged them one-sixth of the going water rate (and did not tack on sewer charges).

Now they will be using effluent for heating, electricity (in the new Powerplant) and watering the extensive network of athletic fields.

At the very least the Select board should put a cap on the amount of effluent (tied to what they used last year) they get for free and then pay for anything over that amount, thus giving them some incentive to conserve.