By BOB TUROSZ
NORTH READING – The coming year, 2015, may be the year North Reading and Andover finally reach an agreement on extending the 20-year-old water purchase agreement between the two towns. Renewal of the contract agreement has been hanging fire for months. But at their last meeting, North Reading Selectmen charged Town Administrator Michael Gilleberto with setting up a meeting between Selectmen from both towns to discuss a settlement.
North Reading Selectmen discussed the issue at length recently and said they’re ready for a subcommittee of their members to meet with their Andover counterparts. Selectmen Chairman Robert Mauceri and Joe Foti will represent North Reading.
As explained by Mauceri, there are two renewal scenarios on the table.
The first, as recently proposed by Andover, would include a 25 percent penalty to be paid by North Reading for a one year in advance notice of termination (by North Reading), which could occur any year after the fifth year. “Scenario one assumes termination at the end of five years, which means we give notice at the end of the fourth year,” said Mauceri.
This is because North Reading is known to be considering joining the MWRA water system at some point in the future.
In the second scenario, North Reading would begin to step down its water purchases beginning in year six of the agreement. Mauceri stated Andover hasn’t agreed to this second scenario. But in his opinion, the first scenario is the better deal for North Reading anyway.
The next step is for the subcommittee (two members from each Board of Selectmen) to meet. Mauceri said he’s hoping for a productive meeting.
Selectman Stephen O’Leary said he would like to maintain some kind of relationship with Andover as a backup water supply. The two towns have had a good water supply relationship going back to 1991 and that should be acknowledged, he added.
Andover will lose 18 percent of its water revenue if and when North Reading withdraws as a customer and if North Reading can assist Andover in “weaning” itself off the North Reading revenue through an agreement, “then we should offer that,” said O’Leary.
Looking at the scenarios carefully, said Mauceri, the “weaning off” proposal is actually more expensive for North Reading.
Mauceri said the two boards have an “obligation to get something done” and he’s looking forward to sitting down to a table to talk. He said the two sides are close to coming to agreement that tracks back to last February when they all agreed on a 10 year contract because the rates now under discussion are very similar.