concord journal
Note: bold by MAMEC

Annual hearing held about town’s enterprise funds
By Casey Lyons/ Staff Writer Thursday, March 30, 2006

Sometimes the town can be run like a business, and when it comes to utilities, business in town is booming.

At a March 27 public hearing, the heads of the town’s five different enterprise funds - the Concord Municipal Light Plant, the Water Commission, the Sewer Commission, the Concord Swim and Fitness Center, and the Solid Waste special revenue fund - spoke to future budgeting practices including forthcoming initiatives and goals.

The Concord Municipal Light Plant continues to offer residents significant savings in electricity costs when compared to neighboring towns, said Dan Sack, superintendent of the light plant.

According to Sack, from March 2003, when the current contract began, to December 2005, Concord electricity users have saved a combined $11 million over market prices.

He added that January rates from NStar were 100 percent higher than rates offered to Concord residents.

After all revenues and expenditures, Sack reported the light plant operates on a net income of $639,000 which is used to pay for all the plant’s operations.

A 5 percent surcharge on all electric bills is slated to go into effect to help stabilize electricity rates once the town’s current and favorable contract expires in 2009, he said. The fund will be used for several years to buy down electricity costs.

Resident Gordon Bell questioned the fairness of the stabilization fund given that some residents will not be around to reap the benefits when it is scheduled to be used in September 2009 and beyond.

"This is a savings that’s really going to accrue for new people that move in the future," he said.

Future projects also include changing meters so as to take readings more quickly and accurately, increasing meter tamper detection and reducing losses by identifying problem areas or times faster than before, Sack said.

Peak demand during the last calendar year topped 43 kilowatt hours, Sack said, when that number reaches 50 kWh the system will be at capacity. To address future needs, the Light Plant is investigating various options to keep Concord lit into the future.
Swim and Health Center

Danner DeStephano, recreation director, explained the work being done at the Concord Swim and Fitness facility. The 500 Walden St. complex, which is scheduled to open on April 18, is hopeful for a financial strength in its first year of operation.

So far, membership sales have topped 940 family equivalents, DeStephano said, and the hype from the facility’s opening is projected to take in about another 220 additional memberships.

In this first year, budgeting practices are geared to provide flexibility while the recreation department gets a handle what kind of funds the facility will generate.

Finance Director Tony Logalbo said current revenue projections are expected to equal expenses, and in the first year of operations, the budget does not assume the facility will turn a profit.

He added that paying the town back for start up operating costs and debt authorization for purchased equipment was not put in the first year’s budget, pending one year to determine exact revenue streams.
Water and sewer

Bill Edgerton, superintendent of the Concord Public Works department, stated customer satisfaction as his highest goal in the water world, in his explanation of the enterprise fund Article 25.

Edgerton described capital improvements to water mains in West Concord, a water treatment facility that does phosphorus abatement, and to identify and begin operations on more economical wells.

Though rates are not set until May, Edgerton said a 5.2 percent increase in water costs was expected.

New this year is a senior circuit breaker, which allows qualified seniors - under $40,000 in annual income for an individual, $60,000 for a couple filing jointly and a house valued under $600,000 - savings of about $150 per year. The rest of Concord’s water users will be charged about $3.60 to make up the costs.

Article 23 relates to the enterprise fund for the sewer system, which currently covers one-third of the town, Edgerton said.

The ongoing capital plan includes the completion of phase I of the sewer project, which will hook 300 homes to the system, $12 million expended toward waste water treatment facility improvements, and $3 million applied toward phosphorus reduction technology.

Edgerton said if the locally developed technology is developed elsewhere, Concord is eligible to be reimbursed by the private development company up to $3 million.

Rates, which will not be finalized until May, are anticipated to increase 4.9 percent in fiscal 2007, Edgerton said. The figure equates to about $34 dollars annually on the average sewer bill.

Locally provided solid waste removal is utilized by about two-thirds of the town’s population, Edgerton said in his explanation of Article 22.

Concord remains one of the top 10 towns in the commonwealth for recycling, with 45 percent of waste materials recycled. Moreover, he said, about $210,000 in recycling rebates were returned to residents.

At the composting center, the town has plans to begin bulk sales of compost and wood chips to suppliers, while keeping those items free of charge to residents. The selling of those products will bring the compost center closer to its goal of self-sustainability, he said.
Ann Dorfman, program coordinator of the Recycling and Waste Management Program, said efforts were underway at the state level to recycle construction materials. She said such materials make up about half of all waste generated within the town.