Lombardi: End of water privatization effort good for town ratepayers

Lombardi: End of water privatization effort good for town ratepayers

NORTH PROVIDENCE – Providence Mayor Jorge Elorza’s announcement last week that he was pulling the plug on a plan to privatize Providence’s water supply was good news for ratepayers in North Providence, said Mayor Charles Lombardi this week.

Anyone with business sense knows the bottom line here was that if a private company were to purchase the water supply for up to $400 million, “someone’s going to pay,” said Lombardi, who was a vocal opponent of the privatization plan throughout the process.

“Everyone’s been opposed to it,” he said. “This was not the right thing to do.”

Lombardi said he didn’t care about the politics of the proposal, “but our ratepayers were definitely going to pay more money.”

Just the same as someone who buys a car for $30,000 shouldn’t expect to pay nothing for it, the buyer of the water supply was going to need to find the money for its purchase somewhere, said Lombardi.

“This is the best news that the ratepayers of North Providence could have heard from the city of Providence,” he said. “Who else is going to pay besides the ratepayers?”

Asking local communities serviced by the Providence Water Supply Board “to pay for Providence’s financial woes was not fair,” he said. “This is all about the taxpayers in the town having to pay more for water service.”

The Providence Water Supply Board continues to be run very well, and town leaders get along great with those who run it, said Lombardi.

“Why would you fix something that’s not broke?” he said.

Facing mounting pressure against his proposal last week, Elorza scrapped his plan to monetize the water supply, asking that legislators’ bills that would have enabled the plan be pulled off the table. He said the city would no longer try to sell or lease the water supply as a way to fund a $1.1 billion unfunded pension liability.

The Narragansett Bay Commission had expressed interest in purchasing the water supply in the Scituate Reservoir, which sends water to various communities through the Providence Water Supply Board. The value of the supply, which brings water to about 60 percent of the state, has been pegged at about $400 million.

The Providence Water Supply Board is prohibited from making a profit off its sale of the water to other cities and towns.

Elorza conceded last week that the plan had many roadblocks in the way of actually pulling it off, noting the concerns expressed on finances, logistics and the environment, among others.

The Providence Water Supply Board serves customers in Providence, North Providence, Cranston, Johnston and parts of Smithfield.

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just go bankrupt already