Water/Sewer Rates, Budget Dominant Issues
- Allison Goldsberry
It might not be that sexy, but how to deal with rising water and sewer rates is a dominant issue for candidates and voters during this election season.
City Councilor Stephanie Muccini Burke got the ball rolling during her opening statement at a Council Candidate Forum organized by the Medford Democratic Party Wednesday evening when she said the implementation of the city’s new meter program was “shoddy.”
Burke said the Council must continue to pressure the administration for a second meter and a tiered rate system.
City Council President Robert Maiocco said rising water and sewer rates is Medford’s number one issue and the city should establish a progressive rate system based on consumption.
City Councilor Paul Camuso said he strongly supports a second meter and a progressive rate is more fair so residents and small businesses are not paying as much as large businesses and other high-use customers.
“We’ve made our voices loud and clear we want a second meter,” said City Councilor Breanna Lungo, adding the Council has voted on the issue “five to fifteen times.”
The Council candidates also fielded several questions on how to craft a budget during tight fiscal times from panelists Kevin Maccioli of the Medford Daily Mercury and John Falco and Bill Wood from the Medford Democratic Party.
Challenger candidate Mark Arena said the city would have to tighten its belt and should try to hammer out the budget earlier than just weeks before the June 30 deadline.
When pressed Burke said she would consider a Proposition 2 ½ override and a 1% meals tax for alternative sources of revenue if residents were in favor of the measures.
Camuso said Medford should also consider an opportunity to join a group insurance plan recently approved by the state if it would save the city money.
City Councilor Michael Marks said a parking enforcement division could potentially bring in $1 million or more per year and the city is looking at neighboring communities for ideas.
City Councilor Fred Dello Russo said the Council needs to think “outside the box” in finding ways to pay for essential city services and that Medford came dangerously close this budget season to not making ends meet.
“It almost didn’t work this year,” said Dello Russo.
And what if the city stumbled upon some extra cash? Maccioli asked Maiocco what he would do with it.
Maiocco said the first thing he would do is pay off the city’s $61 million debt, and next in line would be water/sewer rate relief.
Nine candidates are vying for seven City Council seats and each sitting Councilor is running for re-election.
Challenger Brian Chamberlain thinks his public safety background and degree in urban studies makes him a uniquely qualified candidate.
Councilor Lungo wants to continue to be a voice for Medford’s youth and is proud of helping establish the Medford Summer Camp program.
Councilor Camuso says he’s the one to call for help with the “daily issues that affect people.”
Councilor Maiocco said the Council is the “people’s forum” and his priority is protection of every neighborhood.
Challenger candidate Arena said he would not make promises that he alone could not keep and he would always vote in the best interest of Medford.
Councilor Dello Russo enjoyed his first term as Councilor and is still as “eager to serve and eager to listen.”
Councilor Burke touts her financial background as a CPA and wants to continue to be a “partner in progress” with Medford citizens.
Councilor Marks said residents will never have to guess where he stands on an issue and is proud of leading the charge in getting extra money from Tufts and lowering the age for senior property tax exemptions.
City Councilor Bob Penta was not able to attend tonight’s forum.
The Democratic Party will hold another forum for School Committee and Mayoral candidates on Wednesday, October 3 at 7PM at City Hall and has also organized a meet and greet on October 17, same place and time, for all candidates.
The election is Tuesday, November 6, 2007.