Hingham held their first session of Annual Town Meeting Monday night at the high school and voted in favor of an article to study the feasibility of a town takeover of Aquarion, the water supplier for Hingham, Hull and North Cohasset.
The article was downgraded from $500,000 to $320,000 after Aquarion agreed to repair the Union Street water main starting on Wednesday and the Free Street main within a year, as well as providing the town with financial data by June 15.
But Hingham Selectman Laura Burns said that Aquarion would not sign an agreement, which sought to mitigate the prospect of litigation.
Burns told the town meeting audience, “After years of poor service and rate increases, suddenly, in the last few weeks, Aquarion suggested that we sit down and talk and we did, to try to reach a compromise. An agreement was drafted, in which the company would make available the information we need. It included a mechanism for resolving disputes and provided a non-binding mediation, to try to reach an accommodation after the study. In return, the town would agree not to initiate litigation, unless a future town meeting agreed. Our board indicated our willingness to sign and we were optimistic we could bring you this news today. However, late yesterday Aquarion told us they would not sign. Our guess is that they felt as if article 19 did not pass, they would no longer have any need whatsoever to cooperate with the town.”
Aquarion’s Regional Vice President of Operations Harry Hibbard, spoke out against the article.
“This is not just a study. This article authorizes the Town of Hingham to file a lawsuit against our company, to determine the price. That is the first step, down a very slippery slope”, Hibbard said.
An $86.7 million dollar operating budget for fiscal 2013 was also voted in.
Town meeting resumes tonight at 7 P.M. at the high school.