Published February 27, 2019


LYNNFIELD — A small group of ratepayers sent a message that was loud and clear to the Lynnfield Center Water District Board of Water Commissioners during the Special District Meeting on Monday night.

That message: Allocate more funds to the LCWD’s filter rebate program for ratepayers who have had discolored water. The current program provides a rebate up to $200 for the purchase and installation of an in-home water filter.

Newly-elected Water Commissioner Rob Almy crafted the non-binding Article 3, which requested that the water commissioners approve increasing the maximum rebate amount from $200 to $2,000 and that the district spend up to $80,000 on the program.

“Such rebates should be granted based on consideration of factors including service location, documented occurrence of brown water and the utility of the residential water supply in light of high iron and manganese levels,” stated Article 3. “Such rebates should be made on a reimbursement basis and may be granted for any installation made since January 2015 that would otherwise qualify based on consistent application of the factors above. If such installation requires a valid plumbing permit, a copy of the permit should be part of the application for reimbursement or take any other action relative thereto.”

West Tapley Road resident Lisa Lopez said she has brown water frequently. She said the discolored water problems forced her to purchase a water filtration system.

“My filter cost $4,300,” said Lopez. “And it has an annual maintenance cost of $350 plus any filter replacements, which run about $40 each.”

Patrice Lane resident Pat Campbell made a motion that sought to have ratepayers approve Article 3 by ballot.

“The reason why I am doing this is because it was so controversial the last time,” said Campbell in reference to an amendment to a previous warrant article at the Special District Meeting last December. “I think voters will be more comfortable with a secret ballot.”

Board of Water Commissioners Chairwoman Connie Leccese seconded Campbell’s motion.

After a brief discussion, ratepayers rejected the secret ballot amendment.

A woman in the audience expressed her support for Article 3.

“I don’t have brown water, but I support a rebate for those who do,” said the woman. “They have been working really hard trying to find a solution and have been suffering for a long time.”

James Noonan, 538 Lowell St., inquired how the district would be able to document cases of discolored water.

Almy said there are a number of ways to document high iron and manganese levels including having LCWD employees visit homes to collect discolored water samples. He said additional details would need to be finalized.

Campbell offered a second amendment to Article 3, which sought to change January 2015 to January 2017. Leccese seconded Campbell’s amendment.

“I don’t recall that there were complaints in 2015,” said Campbell.

A woman said she has had discolored water since 2014.

“And you have seen my pictures Mrs. Campbell,” the woman said.

Campbell said she created the motion in order to generate discussion. She expressed concerns about how LCWD employees would be able to “validate” discolored water complaints.

“There is a lot of research that has to be done and that is why I am bringing it up,” said Campbell. “If I am wrong, I am wrong. I take defeat graciously. I have taken a lot of defeats in meetings during the 26 years I have lived here. And that is okay. It’s called democracy.”

Lopez said she has had discolored water since moving to Lynnfield in 2013.

“I can attest that it has been going on longer than 2015,” said Lopez.

Russet Lane resident Stephanie Rauseo agreed.

“I have lived here for 50 years and I have had brown water for at least the last eight years,” said Rauseo. “The problem is it doesn’t happen all the time, but its bad enough that you wouldn’t drink it or wash clothes in it. I feel that if I sign a letter stating I have brown water, they are going to believe me. I know a whole house filter can cost between $3,000 and $5,000. Two-thousand dollars is a reasonable amount.”

After the discussion, ratepayers unanimously rejected Campbell’s amendment. Ratepayers then approved Article 3 unanimously.

Additional articles

Ratepayers unanimously approved Article 1, which elected Almy as water commissioner. He will fill the remaining year of retired LCWD Superintendent/Water Commissioner Ken Burnham’s term. Burnham resigned from the board in early January.

Almy was the only candidate running for water commissioner during the Special District Meeting.

“I appreciate the confidence of the ratepayers,” said Almy in an interview with the Villager after the Special District Meeting. “I hope I can live up to what their expectations are.”

Almy’s areas of expertise include groundwater, integrated regional water management, stormwater pollution, water conservation, environmental reviews and program development. He served as the manager of the Santa Barbara County Water Agency from 1990 through 2008. He has worked as the senior project manager for Weston and Sampson since 2013.

Ratepayers also approved Article 2, which was crafted by Selectmen Chairman Dick Dalton. Article 2 mandates that the water commissioners begin searching for the district’s next water superintendent “no sooner than the 2019 Annual Meeting.”

Campbell inquired why Article 2 sought to begin the superintendent search until after the Annual Meeting on April 1. She noted she was slated to be a member of the search committee that was tasked with finding Burnham’s successor, but the search committee disbanded after Dalton and a group of ratepayers filed a petition requesting the Special District Meeting.

“It is my understanding that the general attitude of the ratepayers is they would like to see a new majority of the commissioners be seated before that deliberation begins,” said Dalton.

After the discussion, ratepayers approved Article 2.

Candidates’ deadline Friday

The deadline for prospective candidates looking to run for water commissioner in both the April 1 Special District Meeting and the April 1 Annual Meeting is Friday, March 1.

The LCWD has scheduled the Special District Meeting in order to fill the remaining two years of Leccese’s term. Leccese, who has served on the board for the past five years, will be resigning on March 31.

Water Commissioner Richard Lamusta is up for re-election during the Annual Meeting. He has yet to announce whether he is running for re-election.

Leccese noted the district is also looking for ratepayers who would be interested in serving as either treasurer or clerk. Prospective candidates should submit a letter of intent by Friday if they are interested in running for those two positions.