May 182014

This year’s election for Water Commissioner is not just about controlling invasive species in Baddacook Pond. The outcome of the Water Commission election will determine if the Water Commission will remain truly independent, as it was designed to be. As a member of the Groton Electric Light Board, I know from experience how important a truly independent elected board is for good stewardship of rate payer funds. Mr. Degan has been an exemplary Selectman representing us as tax payers. However, his candidacy for a concurrent seat on the Water Commission raises some important issues.

It is important to have some background to put this issue into context:

  • The Great Ponds Committee, which is opposed to the Water Commission’s decision to not allow the herbicide Sonar to be used near the Baddacook well, is a body that was appointed by the Board of Selectmen
  • As we know, the Water Commission is an independent elected body whose main charge is safe drinking water at the most affordable prices taking into consideration both short and very long term risk
  • The Great Ponds Committee have been very public with their disagreement of the Water Commission’s decision in public meetings and forums including those with the Board of Selectmen
  • Several members of the Board of Selectmen have also publicly expressed their disagreement with the Water Commission’s decision against the use of Sonar
  • A sitting Selectman, Josh Degan, has decided to run for a seat on the Water Commission against an incumbent who voted against the use of the herbicide Sonar
  • Mr. Degan has publicly stated his support for the use of Sonar to control invasive plants in Baddacook Pond
  • The manager of the Water Department reports directly to the Town Manager who also reports to the Board of Selectmen

Should a sitting Selectman be elected to the Water Commission?

  • There is a risk the Water Commission loses its independence and becomes an extension of the Board of Selectmen with one of the three commissioners a member of the Board of Selectmen and the superintendent reporting to the Town Manager
  • There is a risk the safety of the public water supply becomes a political issue and not necessarily an issue of long-term risk avoidance
  • There is a risk that Water Commission will not always act with the interest of its current and future rate payers as its first priority

Mr. Degan has already offered to recuse himself from Water Commission votes that may conflict with his Board of Selectmen’s role. In effect, acknowledging the possibility of conflicts and, therefore, reducing the effectiveness of the Water Commission should he be elected.

This particular situation is legal, but that doesn’t mean it is in the interest of the water rate payers. Mr. Degan may be able to remain independent and keep the Water Commission independent. However, the loss of an independent Water Commission only increases risk for rate payers with little to no benefit.

Kevin Lindemer
227 Boston Road