Commentary by Frank Schroth
Many in town are understandably outraged to learn that fellow residents have been receiving free sewer service for quite some time and most likely have been subsidized by those here in town paying their bills. Some have called for the DPW to release a list of names or properties that may be involved. However, releasing a list of names of property owners suspected of failing to pay bills they have not received serves no purpose.
This issue is not new. It was first reported here last September. However, a recent WBZ I-Team investigation has focused renewed attention on it. Ironically, that report came to our attention when it was posted on the DPW’s Facebook page as was a map of properties suspected of receiving free service. Those Facebook posts have, understandably, been removed. Putting out a list of properties before they had been properly determined to be receiving free service was a mistake and, given the sensitivity in town to MWRA rates in general, only stirred people up.
Joe Lynch, the director of the DPW, is doing a commendable job. Heidentified the problem; he brought it to the attention of the Selectmen; and he outlined a proposal for moving forward. The prudent course of action is to pursue it vigorously on a reasonable timetable and report at frequent, established intervals on progress.
Numerous questions come up and some have been addressed. If the problem has existed for 30+ years, why are they only looking to recoup 6 years of service? Apparently, the six-year figure came up after consulting with Town Counsel. As we understand it, the period of free service is not always easy to determine. That said, if it is known that someone knowingly connected to the system in the 70’s for the purpose of avoiding payment, then they should be pursued for a lot more than 6 years. Were properties other than residential properties receiving free service (e.g. non-profits, commercial)?
We trust Mr. Lynch and the BoS will get to the bottom of this. We assume their investigation will include reviewing properties and citizens with an eye toward who would know how to pull off linking to sewer service free of charge, extent of the number of properties, length of time and type, etc. It is an outrageous situation; but it is being addressed. Let’s let our town officials perform their investigation. The public deserve to know once the facts are determined and scofflaws need to be held accountable.