Patriot Ledger

By Mary Whitfill 
The Patriot Ledger 

HINGHAM — Selectmen will host the first public information meeting on the proposed purchase of the town’s water system next weekend, hoping to sway residents to vote in favor of the sale ahead of town meeting. On Wednesday, Aquarion will present their side of the debate at a meeting of the Hingham Advisory Committee.

A costly battle over whether or not Hingham should purchase their water system from Aquarion, a privately-operated subsidiary of Eversource, is set to come to a head at town meeting this spring. Selectmen have been exploring the purchase for seven years, and have said it’s finally time for residents make the decision.

Selectmen are looking to force Aquarion to sell the water system under a provision of the 1879 law that first privatized the town’s municipal water infrastructure. Aquarion isn’t interested in selling, and has spent millions fighting the potential sale since the town first established the Water Company Acquisition Study Committee in 2012. Selectmen aren’t allowed to spend town money on campaigning for a “yes” vote on the purchase.

Selectmen say that if the town owned the water system, Hingham would be able to cut costs for ratepayers and put residents’ interests first. Aquarion, on the other hand, has accused the town of failing to properly vet the acquisition and says selectmen would be in over their heads if they tried to run a water system that serves 12,700 customers in Hingham, Hull and North Cohasset.

The two sides also disagree about the value of the water system. A financial analyst hired by the town estimates its value at $108 million, which would be borrowed and paid for by water rate revenue over a 30-year period, selectmen say. Aquarion says the price should be closer to $250 million when adding capital improvements and interest on debt.

The issue has sparked the formation of two citizens groups: Keep Aquarion, organized by resident Jim O’Hare, and Citizens for Hingham Water, led by former selectman Laura Burns.

Aquarion will present to the Hingham Advisory Committee at 7:30 p.m. Wednesday in town hall. Residents are invited to attend and ask questions.

Selectmen will host their informational session from 1 to 3 p.m. on Saturday, March 9 at town hall.

Hingham town meeting is scheduled for April 22.

Reach Mary Whitfill at mwhitfill@patriotledger.com.

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