Fryeburg Water District: Stay ‘active’ or go to ‘inactive?’

By Wayne E. Rivet

Staff Writer

FRYEBURG — Should the Fryeburg Water District remain “active” or be declared “inactive?”

Residents will decide the organization’s fate in June 2013.

FWD trustees decided to place the question before voters at their meeting Tuesday night at the Fryeburg Rescue building.

The District was created in 2005 by the Maine Legislature when talk surfaced that the Fryeburg Water Company — a privately-owned utility — was contemplating its sale.

The Company decided against selling.

Yet, the District remained in place — just in case a day arrived that FWC did decide to sell.

Although the District has five elected trustees, it has no regulatory powers.

To keep the District “active,” it takes about $1,100, which is raised through “donations” from the community.

FWD Trustee Dick Krasker, who has raised the funds needed to operate the District, felt the Fryeburg community could use the $1,000 on more “pressing” issues than keeping the District “active.”

Despite his own feelings on the issue, Krasker added that if local residents want to retain that “warm and fuzzy feeling” because the District is operational, he would support that position — continuing the reason he is on the board, to serve the interest of the public.

Krasker had suggested placing the District in an “inactive” state. If the need arose in the future, the District could be returned to “active” status.

Trustees debated Tuesday night what format should be used to present the question to residents.

Initially, Trustee chairman John Weston recommended that an informational paragraph be placed under the main question, explaining the ramifications of a vote to make the District “inactive.”

Trustee Scott Montgomery, however, felt the ballot should be kept simple — an “up or down” question on whether residents want the Water District or not, thus avoiding any biased wording.

Citing what happened during a critical school budget vote several years ago, Holly Foster supported adding an informational paragraph to help voters fully understand the question being asked.

A proposed 10% cut resulted in about 900 voters showing up for the school budget vote. Foster heard many people questioning “how they were suppose to vote” on various warrant items. She would hate to see a repeat on the Water District vote.

Other residents in attendance felt the District is needed as a watchdog because of the presence of Nestlé. Several people made reference to lawsuits filed in other states against the big corporation, and whether the company could fully be trusted. They see the Water District as a “safeguard for the people” and “that alone is a good reason to keep the Water District active.”

Several times, Weston reminded residents to keep questions related to the Water District, not about their feelings for Nestlé or the company’s history.

Others suggested that the Water District could assume a greater role. Krasker noted earlier in the evening that the FWD helped establish the well-head protection zone. Similar work, on behalf of the general public, could be pursued, some residents suggested. One starting point would be creating a “mission statement,” which does not presently exist.

Other questions asked included how wells are monitored (independent hydrologist Peter Garrett oversees reports collected from 11 monitoring wells — reports are filed by the Fryeburg’s code enforcement officer, Krasker said) and whether any trustee had connections with the Fryeburg Water Company or would benefit in any way from the District being inactive.

Trustee Weston noted that his father has been a long-time member of the Fryeburg Water Company, and had asked other trustees “if they had any problem” or if a conflict of interest would exist with him serving on the FWD board. Their answer was “No.”

While Krasker noted Nestlé has given him no reason to question their intention to abide by agreements made regarding water extraction, he pointed out it that if the District was inactive, the Town of Fryeburg has eminent domain powers to contend with Nestlé and “greater financial resources” to pursue legal matters compared to the District.

As the meeting came to a close, trustees reiterated that there was no move to “dissolve” the Water District.

The question is whether the Water District will remain “active” or “inactive.”

A FWD meeting will be held the second week in May for further discussion on the issue prior to the June vote.

 

 

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