LYNNFIELD — Joe Marotta came to the Lynnfield Center Water District (LCWD) meeting Monday night armed with a stack of water bills to ask how the price could rise by nearly 1,900 percent.
“My water bill went from $60 to $1,170,” he told the panel. “I was billed more for the last six months than I’ve paid in 10 years. How is that possible?”
Marotta was not the only ratepayer who saw his water bill skyrocket. More than 100 people gathered at the Lynnfield Middle School to ask the commissioners to explain the recent rate increase and why it was enacted retroactively from November 2017 though November 2018.
LCWD chairwoman Constance Leccese said the rate hike had been discussed in nearly a dozen public meetings last year before it was enacted in September.
The new rates, which ratepayers expected would be effective Dec. 1, 2018, raised the cost of water dramatically for families who use the most.
For example, the previous rate was $2 per thousand for the first 48,000 gallons; $6 for 48,0001 to 72,000 gallons; and $10 for more than 72,000 gallons.
The new rate is $1 for the first 12,000 gallons; $4.40 for 12,001 to 36,000 gallons; $9 for 36,001 to 48,000 gallons; and $18 for 48,001 gallons or more.
“You’re charging those of us with multiple kids higher rates,” said Marotta.
Leccese said the state Department of Environmental Protection recommended Lynnfield raise its water rates to encourage conservation.
“Discussion about the rate increase began one year ago and (it) was discussed at almost every meeting and ratepayers had an opportunity to ask questions … It’s peanuts,” she said of the rate hike.
But Page Wilkins disagreed.
“It’s not peanuts,” she said to applause. “This is a big burden and it must be resolved tonight. Take the big burden off us who are facing a giant increase and make a motion to let us delay our payment and take the burden off ratepayers.”
Wilkins said she reviewed minutes of the LCWD’s meeting and discovered the rate hike, while approved in September, was not set to take effect until December.
In response, Leccese said the commissioner’s attorney will review the minutes and have a clarification at the next meeting in two weeks.
At that point, the board voted to extend the payment date from the end of January to the end of March.
Some questions went unanswered.
Stephanie Rauseo asked the chairwoman how much revenue the district collected last year and how much they expect to collect under the new rates.
Neither Leccese nor Treasurer James Alexander knew the answer. They promised to post the data on the LCWD website within two weeks.