TOWNSEND — Selectmen are hoping to have a plan in place for addressing weakness in the fiscal policies of the town’s water department by late summer, before the fiscal year 2014 audit begins.
Previous audits by Melanson & Heath have recommended that the town transfer collections on water department bills to the collector’s office to avoid having the water department responsible for all portions of the billing process.
No malfeasance has been reported in the water department, but Town Administrator Andrew Sheehan has said that addressing the issue is a way of instituting best practices in the town’s finances.
Whether the auditor’s recommendation will be followed exactly, or whether the water department will begin by implementing a lockbox service to reduce its handling of funds, will be discussed by the Board of Water Commissioners in coming months.
“The intent is obviously to comply with the audit,” said Water Department Superintendent Paul Rafuse.
Selectmen Chairman Sue Lisio asked for a written document by the time the fiscal 2014 audit starts in late summer in order to show the auditors that the town has a plan to address the matter.
Sheehan said that while the issue will most likely not be resolved by that point, it will show Melanson & Heath that the town is planning to make a change.
“We can show to the auditors that we’re making progress in the right direction,” Sheehan said.
Selectmen also voted 3-0 to send a letter to the Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs denouncing proposed water regulations that they said constitute an “unfunded mandate” that will hinder economic development.
The new Sustainable Water Management Initiative would set limits for how much water can be withdrawn from a source, and Townsend officials said it could require expensive mitigation efforts to meet the requirements.
“It is unfair to burden communities for the sins of the past when communities were complying with the laws and regulations in effect at that time. The commonwealth should provide funding for the desired improvements rather than shifting this burden to cities and towns,” the letter says.
Rafuse and the Board of Water Commissioners requested the letter against the SWMI regulations at a previous selectmen meeting, during which they brought in an outside consultant to discuss the plan.
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