Published in the May 19, 2016 edition
By BOB TUROSZ
NORTH READING – Town of Reading and North Reading officials have been cooperating for months on North Reading’s proposed plan to join the MWRA water district for water supply and that cooperation was in full view at last week’s workshop session held in the high school.
Reading Selectmen John Halsey, Dan Ensminger and Barry Berman all attended last week’s workshop in support of North Reading’s project, together with Reading Town Manager Bob LeLacheur and DPW Director Jeff Zager, who was town administrator in North Reading 30 years ago. Also on hand were Reading’s Assistant DPW Director Jane Kinsella and State Senator Bruce Tarr.
North Reading Selectman Stephen O’Leary applauded the MWRA and Reading for their cooperation with North Reading, saying it’s much appreciated.
Halsey, who is chairman of the Reading Selectmen, and Ensminger have been working as a subcommittee with North Reading for the better part of a year. “We’re excited about the idea of partnering at this level and any other level that presents itself with our next door neighbor.”
If North Reading is successful in its proposal, North Reading would connect to the MWRA through Reading, which joined the MWRA about a decade ago and does not regret the decision, according to their Selectmen. Ensminger said better water quality is one of the benefits of joining the MWRA and that should be made known to residents.
“We’ve noticed a big difference in Reading,” Ensminger stated. (According to MWRA Executive Director Fred Laskey, Boston water and MWRA water – which is the same thing – finished first and second in a national taste test.)
LeLacheur answered quite a few questions from the audience and said North Reading and said the town is fortunate to be receiving zero percent financing from MWRA for the construction costs. When Reading shut down its wells and joined the MWRA years ago, it did not receive zero percent financing, he noted with chagrin.
If North Reading goes to the MWRA, it can’t “monetize” or sell its rights to the water it currently draws from the Ipswich River water shed, LeLacheur said in answer to a question from the audience. “I love your idea, and we tried that. It’s very common sense and logical. We tried every legislative angle possible” but every attempt was flat out rejected by the state.
But, he suggested, North Reading should not give up its right to withdraw water from the watershed in the future. “That’s the real value,” he said. “Keep your right even though you don’t intend to use it.” Reading turned off its water treatment plant when it joined the MWRA, but they still have the right to withdraw from the river if they change their mind. “That’s what’s valuable. No one’s going to pay you for it, so we didn’t give ours up.”