BROCKTON, Mass. — Raising taxes or utility rates is never a popular idea.
But, for Maureen Reynolds, who is retired and living on a fixed income, it’s scary to think about her utility bill going up during a pandemic.
“It would put a big hardship on an awful lot of people,” Reynolds said.
The decision to raise Brockton’s water and sewer rates last week is controversial, and it left Councilor-At-Large Winthrop Farwell, Jr. scratching his head.
“Just, the timing couldn’t be worse,” Farwell, Jr. said.
Farwell, Jr. joined Councilors Susan Nicastro and Tina Cardoso voting against the ordinance, which passed 8-3. The rate hike goes into effect in November, but Farwell, Jr. believes people will still be suffering financially from the pandemic.
“Now you’re going to hit some of the larger restaurants in the city that are large users of water… with an increase in water rate just when they’re trying to recoup from lost revenues? It doesn’t make sense,” said Farwell, Jr.
Farwell, Jr. said under the new rates an average family will pay between $224-244 more a year, with an additional $80-100 in their water bill, $120 in a new user fee and a new $24 stormwater utility fee.
“It’s just not the right time,” Nicastro said.
The Ward 4 Councilor called the decision “tone deaf” and said she received calls from people who “don’t have food or can’t pay their rent or mortgage payments.”
“That’s why I opposed it," said Nicastro. “Yes, we need the money. Yes, we need to improve our infrastructure. But not under these circumstances. I just—I think it’s cruel.”
Ward 6 Councilor Jack Lally said the increase is necessary to repair the city’s crumbling infrastructure and replace pipes that are a century old.
“It’s not something that would have been right to leave for another person, for another responsibility," said Lally. “We have to bite the bullet. Somebody’s got to do it.”
Neighboring towns Abington and Whitman buy water from Brockton, but it’s unclear if the rate hike will affect those communities.
“To date there has been no proposal from Brockton to increase water rates to Whitman,” wrote Whitman’s Superintendent for Water and Sewer Dennis Smith in an email.
Farwell is worried long-term about the burden higher rates will put on residents and small businesses.
“You’re going to have people that find the added financial pressure unwarranted, unreasonable and very difficult to deal with,” said Farwell, Jr.
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