Every tax is a pay cut.  Every tax cut is a pay raise.
Citizens for Limited Taxation

To the Framingham Board of Selectman,

Mr. Ross, as chairman, could you please acknowledge receipt of this email
to [ hjw2001@gmail.com ].  I will complete the handshake by
subsequently acknowledging your acknowledgement.


I understand that water and sewer fees were increased to cover MWRA
increases and assorted repairs, and I have some questions about that issue.

You should be able to answer these questions in less than a week.  Answers
such as "we don't have an answer to this question" is perfectly acceptable.
Most of the questions can be answered "yes" or "no".

1. What percentage of the increase was for MWRA increases?   

   Ans: The MWRA increase represents approximately 3.4% of the combined 
        water/sewer rate increase.

2. What percentage of the increase was for repairs?

   Ans: From FY04 to FY05, the budget line items directly attributable
        to repairs and maintenance for water and sewer combined increased
        an average of 20%.  However, this does not take into account any
        indirect line items that may be associated with repairs and
        maintenance of the system.

3. If there are funds allocated for repairs,

  a.  Does the town have a database or mechanism in place that allows us
      to ascertain what may be broken in water/sewer mains?
      Ans: The Town does not have a master data base for recording system
           failures.  The information is recorded manually and the records
           are kept on an annual basis.  We know, for example, that we had
           75 system failures between January 1, 2004 and May 1, 2004.

  b.  For instance, can we find out how many leaks any particular water main
      had over a 10 year period?
      Ans: There is no current way to ascertain the number of leaks within
           specific pipe segments without reviewing 10 years of daily records.
           Public Works will have a work management system in place within
           approximately 12 months that will record the work by location and
           provide the ability to manage the data selectively for reporting
           purposes.  The second phase of that will be the development of
           the asset management system which will record the work in great
           detail and within specific pipe segments for both water and
           sewer functions.

  c.  Or how many sewage problems have occurred along a particular line
      that are related to a sewage line (versus a pipe connecting a house
      to a sewage line, which I presume would be an issue for the homeowner)?

      Ans: Public Works has routinely responded to more than 450-500 calls
           for blocked sewers each year.  The records of whether it was
           the private portion or the public portion are kept as a service
           record.  The work order management system will better track the
           data once it is in place. 

  d. If we are to be told that repairs are needed for things we cannot see
     or visualize well, how is it determined that they need repairs?

     Ans: The replacement of certain components of the water and sewer system
          may be determined by a variety of methods and means.  The Department
          has a video unit to inspect pipelines and to rapidly determine the
          nature of a sewer problem.  In some instances, the visual
          inspection of the pumping stations and manholes determines the
          need for repair.  Since the life expectancy of certain components
          of the system are established, in some instances the age alone
          is enough to tell you the need for replacement.  A hydrant testing
          program determined that as many as 250 hydrants in the system
          were not functioning, not much of a surprise given that these were
          also the oldest hydrants in Town dating back 80 to 100 years. 
Being told that water/sewer lines have been neglected for 30 years is
not a sufficient reason to replace them.  My liver has been neglected for
54 years and I have no intention of getting a new one.
  e. Is there a master plan for what repairs need to be done for water/sewer
     lines in Framingham?

     Ans: The Town has invested in the development of master plans for
          the Water Distribution System, the Wastewater System, and
          the Stormwater System.  The purpose of master planning was to provide
          comprehensive GIS plans of the system, provide an asset management
          tool to keep the system plans updated, and a 20-year plan
          for prioritized improvements.  The Wastewater Master planning is
          midway through the second year of a three year program.  The Water
          Distribution System master planning is closing in on the first
          year of a two year study.

  f. What most needs repairs?

     Ans: The remaining unlined water pipes and house services within the
          Town need to be replaced as soon as possible, as they are
          severely corroded and unable to deliver a sufficient volume of
          water to customers.  The hydrants that are not functional or
          that can only be partially opened need to be replaced.  The Sewer
          pumping stations that have exceeded their 35-year life expectancy
          and require a high level of maintenance need to be replaced.  The
          main gate valves in the water distribution system that are unable
          to operate due to the lack of operational exercise need to be
          replaced.  The siphons in the Wastewater System that traverse
          aqueducts and rivers need to be systematically cleaned and secondary
          siphons added.  The major wastewater lines in Town need to be
          systematically cleaned and flushed.

  g. What are the most expensive items to repair?

     Ans: The most expensive items to repair will likely be the pumping
          stations and their associated force mains, as well as the
          large standing reservoirs within the system.

  h. What is the time frame for these repairs?

     Ans: The timeframe for completion of these repairs is likely to be
          over a 20-25 year period staring within the next few years.

  i. Is there a time frame for these repairs to be complete?

     Ans: See answer to h. above.

  j. Will the rates go down after the repairs are done?

     Ans: The water and sewer rates should go down after the completion of
          this work.

4. Does Framingham get any assistance from the state to finance MWRA increases?
   If so, how much for the last fiscal year?

   Ans: We do not get direct assistance from the State to finance MWRA
        increases.  However, MWRA is potentially eligible for sewer rate
        relief in FY05.  If the Legislature overrides the Governor's
        veto on this portion of the budget and MWRA receives this relief,
        Framingham will see a reduction in our MWRA charge for FY05 of up
        to $260,000.

5. Finally, is there a time frame for MWRA rates to decline after we pay for
   Deer Island and the outflow tunnel? 

   Ans: In a brief discussion with a finance representative from MWRA, there 
        is not a simple answer to the question.  Deer Island debt will
        retire in FY29, however, all debt that the MWRA incurs is calculated
        in their charges to us.  Based on the MWRA's current capital
        plan, Framingham should see a decline in debt service in 2009,
        and another decline between 2015 and 2020.  

You may respond by email.  Here is a list of addresses at which I may be


Harold J. Wolfe
65 Delmar Avenue
Framingham, MA 01701
508-877-5541 (H)
781-687-8236 (W)


Send comments to: hjw2001@gmail.com