Lincoln Town Council approves Water Commission ballot questions

Lincoln Town Council approves Water Commission ballot questions

LINCOLN - After six months of debate about whether the Water Commission is a department of the town or a semi-autonomous agency, the Town Council has decided to let citizens weigh in.

They've approved three questions for the November ballot.

Town Council member Arthur Russo Jr. explained at the May 27 meeting that the council received a "favorable" recommendation from the Ordinance Committee regarding the ballot questions.

"Both myself, Keith Macksoud and Councilman Kenneth Pichette participated in a subcommittee with the Water Commission to discuss some challenges that the Town Council and the Water Commission have had in the past," he said.

Macksoud said the meeting held between the council and commission members was productive and an agreeable compromise was reached.

The conflict began when the Water Commission charged the town a $75 fee for closing the former Senior Center account and then declined to waive it.

Debate has continued about whether the commission is a department under the town or a quasi municipal independent agency.

Macksoud said that at times the commission is considered a department within the town and other times it's not, and some clarification is needed.

"There's nothing in the charter that says it's a department, but everything is owned by the town including trucks, but the argument was that there is nothing that says it," he said.

Lincoln residents will have the power to choose which parts of the charter they feel should be changed.

Macksoud said residents can approve all three questions or just one, it all depends on what they agree with.

The questions are listed, with proposed changes in italics:

* "Shall section C13-1 be amended as follows: There is established a Board of Water Commissioners which shall be a department of the Town, consisting of five members who shall be qualified electors and residents of their respective voting districts, and who shall hereafter except as otherwise stated below be elected at the election held on the first Tuesday following the first Monday in November of even-numbered years."

* "Shall Section C13-5(3) be changed to read: To employ and fix the compensation of such attorneys for the sole purpose of legal matters arising from the operation of the water system, as well as engineers, surveyors, draftsmen, clerks, a superintendent and other employees as may be necessary for the efficient performance of its duties hereunder."

* Shall Section C13-5 (5) be changed to read: To expend moneys received from rates and charges of water and such appropriated moneys as may be legally voted at any Financial Town Meeting for the purpose of providing a water works system for said Town, and in making purchases of supplies, materials and equipment all such purchases shall be made through the central purchasing office of the Town on the basis of requisitions and specifications made by the Board or its duly authorized agent, in accordance with the purchasing policy of the Town. The central purchasing office shall advertise for competitive bids based on proper specifications stated by the Board in accordance with law authorizing the creation of the Board of Water Commissioners."

Macksoud said changing the wording in the charter will not change how the commission runs, but the ballot question that carries the most weight is the one that identifies the Water Commission as part of the town.

The only change that might occur, he said, would clarify when the town solicitor should be used instead of the water commission's attorney.

The commission's attorney would handle all routine work relating to the town's water system, while the town solicitor would be called upon in outside legal matters.