Pollution Control Commission Weighs Costs, Retention Concerns
The Charles River Pollution Control District (CRPCD) Commission, which sets policies of the organization that handles sewage for Franklin and other towns, met Tuesday, June 14, at headquarters in Medway, called to order by Chair David Formato of Franklin. The first matter discussed was a brief report from the organization that handles CRPCD’s pension investments for OPEB (other post-employment benefits). Given the troubles in the market, the Commissioners were warned that returns are likely to be disappointing in the near term. Returns are down 11 percent compared to last year and bonds, generally considered a safe asset class, are down 9 percent when a drop of more than 1 percent has been considered very unusual.
Based on that report, the Commissioners voted to change the ratio of investments from 70/30 to 65/35 with regard to riskiness.
Franklin Commissioner Wolfgang Bauer asked about available alternatives such as combining investments with other organizations but learned this would likely come with much higher fees.
In the end the Commissioners expressed general satisfaction with the approach on OPEB and also voted to transfer an additional $30,000 for FY 22 into the OPEB fund.
The next item was an update on the plan to install at CIPP lining for the main coming from Franklin and across the Charles on Elm Street. Bauer urged the administrator to work out something with Franklin and Medway police that doesn’t not required 24/7 police details but instead relies on signage and lighting to maintain safety. “If that is a problem, we should put economic pressure on the Town Council,” he said.
The next matter was a discussion on personnel compensation – the cost of living adjustment (COLA), which has now become a critical matter with inflation raging out of control. Director Elizabeth Taglieri, said Medway had implemented 2 percent “but that is being negotiated” and Franklin saw a 2.5 percent COLA during the winter. However, 7.5 percent is the current cost increase in the Boston areas. “If we go to 7 percent that would total about $28,000 for the year,” she said.
Franklin’s Mark Cataldo, though, noted that many other things – particularly chemicals – are also increasing and it would be wise to take increases in steps so the CRPCD can retain its options on spending.
Bauer, concerned about the risk of losing employees and having to spend even more to replace them, said he was in favor of implementing a 7.5 percent COLA increase.
Eventually a vote came to implement 4 percent July 1 and revisit the matter in January.
The next discussion item involved a visit by Jim McKay, director of Public Works for Millis who provided a lengthy discussion of emerging sewer capacity in Millis. He explained that the town had purchased some capacity from Franklin in 2011 but, in essence, the town had largely used the capacity and was facing a sewer moratorium. The town also faced internal pumping limits and had spent on its own and also with developers, to increase “lift” capacity.
McKay suggested that select board members from Millis would benefit from a tour of the plant so they can better understand the issues involved. Broadly, the Commissioners agreed. McKay also noted that he would “love” to buy more capacity from Franklin and Bauer noted that at one time he had been working on a kind of “swap,” which did not happen, whereby Millis would provide water to Franklin and Franklin would share more of its sewer capacity.
McKay also mentioned that Millis was working to complete a PFAS treatment plant.
A number of routine budget matters were also discussed.
Kristen Mucciarone, CRPCD engineer, mentioned that she recently completed an inspection at Garelick, which only just formally became part of Dairy Farmers of America due to a legal challenge to the merger. She inspections are only conducted periodically on the largest users of the system
In the final minutes of the meeting, Bauer referenced the “good news” which is that the CRPCD is only paying around 8 cents per kWh for electricity, compared to a market rate that is roughly double that. Mucciarone said, the organization saves as much as $130,000 per month because of that. Taglieir credited the organization’s energy broker for helping to lock in that rate for years to come.