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Meet Bristol County Water Authority's New Chief

Pamela Marchand took over as executive director of the Bristol County Water Authority on Feb. 27.

Pamela Marchand, the of the , views her new post as “an engineer’s dream.”

“I’ll be able to design a whole new system,” Marchand said. “This is fun for me. It’s exciting to come here.”

Marchand’s goal is a “model” water system – one that manages it assets and people in the most efficient way feasible. To do that, she plans a widespread reorganization “that will cost (ratepayers) now but save money over the long term.”

Marchand plans a reorganization despite being “pleasantly surprised with the quality of the system. We’re really not in bad shape. It’s much better than I thought.”

The lack of technology may be BCWA’s most pressing operational need, she said.

“Everything is on paper now,” she said. “It’s a 20-year-old computer system. We need to be more data-driven. We lack data that can save money and better utilize our assets.”

The board of directors also is very interested in changing the way the BCWA operates, she said. “They want to see change.”

Marchand is working with a nine-man board that includes five directors with only a few months experience – two were brand new last week – Ray Palmieri of Warren and Robert Allio of Barrington. The other four directors, including chairman John Jannitto of Warren and vice chairman Allan Klepper of Barrington, have many years of institutional knowledge and often maligned experience.

“It’s a nice mix,” she said. “It has good balance. The fresh eyes give the board a whole new perspective.”

Marchand said part of her job will be to build on the board’s enthusiasm for serving the water authority and incorporating “best water practices.”

Marchand said, “I’ve done it all,” over her 25 years of experience in the water industry.

She was most recently the chief engineer and general manager of the Providence Water Supply Board. Before moving to Providence, she held the same position with the Pawtucket Water Board. And she serves as the chair of the RI Water Resources Board.

Providing information to ratepayers also will be a priority, she said.

“It’s critical to communicate with ratepayers,” Marchand said. “We need to make information more accessible.”

Coming from Providence, with 257 employees, to the BCWA, with 27 employees, is a significant change, she agreed. And even though Marchand has led the water authority for only a few weeks, she is already high on the staff.

“We have good staffing,” she said. “They work really hard. They do an excellent job.”

If there is a problem with the staff, Marchand said, it is that there are too few of them.

“We’re actually extremely low in terms of staffing when comparing us to the benchmarks in the industry,” she said.

Marchand also believes that Bristol County needs a backup water supply – also known as a redundant system. It can't rely just on Providence.

“Too many things can go wrong in the Providence water system,” she said, the source of most of Bristol County’s water right now by way of the Scituate Reservoir and the cross-bay pipeline. “They only have one source and one treatment plant.”

Marchand already favors the Water Resource Board’s proposal to tie into the Pawtucket water supply instead of pursuing the Shad pipeline in Massachusetts.

“They (Pawtucket) have excess supply,” she said. “They’re looking to sell. You go with treated water first if you do a redundant system. But we need to look at the cost first.”

The rates charged by BCWA always have been criticized as high.

“I used to think they were high,” Marchand said. “But not anymore. The costs are not out of line.”

JACK March 19, 2012 at 08:20 PM
SHE TALKS LIKE A BIG SPENDER
Manifold Witness March 19, 2012 at 10:07 PM
Is Ms. Marchand accepting status quo spending as a baseline springboard? If so, was that the understanding during the interview process? We contemplate this vis-a-vis what that baseline includes. Is the treatment plant processing any water? Have the new board members had a tour of the facility? Have the chemical expenses and other processing-related expenses (sludge, etc.)been reduced? If so, has that money been absorbed back into the system?
Gary Morse March 20, 2012 at 02:03 PM
I trust now that BCWA has a hard nosed number cruncher in new Director Allio, the smiles and fluff era of BCWA explaining away "we need more" are gone. What Exec Marchand owes the community is detailed numbers that are more than paper napkin estimates geared to confuse the issues (BCWA's modus operendi of the past). How much is sludge removal, chemicals, salary, benefits, debt servicing, etc, for a fully operational water treatment plant? Not hopeful guesstimates, but detailed factual numbers. And do those numbers stack up against other water authorities of similar size and capacity? And where are the long term water rights in Mass? Are they locked down? We expect more than smiles and guesstimates. And can the business case be posted on the website along with the background. It's easy to do.
Marge March 20, 2012 at 03:40 PM
"And can the business case be posted on the website along with the background. It's easy to do." I am sure they will be after the new computer system is in place. "Pamela Marchand took over as executive director of the Bristol County Water Authority on Feb. 27." Was this announced somewhere previously?
Jack Baillargeron March 20, 2012 at 11:22 PM
I think there may still be some flies in the ointment obviously.
DownTown March 20, 2012 at 11:44 PM
I can't say I agree that the costs are not out of line given that the rates are trumped only by the islands of Jamestown and Block Island but Marchand appears to be a breath of fresh air with most of her feedback. Once the pipeline to Pawtucket is built I have to assume the pretend water treatment plant can be moth balled.
Jack Baillargeron March 21, 2012 at 01:05 AM
I have wondered if, we do the Pawtucket line and East Providence, why can we not sell the MA water rights if we do actually have them, back to MA, they must be worth something? Give the land not needed that is in any of the towns, back to the towns. I am sure Warren could make a lot better use of the reservoir there for some kind of business venture, and maybe get all this land back on the tax roles. Dissolve the BCWA and leave it as a pumping transfer station, like Tiverton has from Fall river at 6 million Gallons perday if I remember right, and it only cost them $600,000 or so to finish the rebuild of the pump station last year and they did it with money Senator Reed got them. Funny how that worked out. (Can we say real due diligence by a water Board and management), just saying Lets face it, the BCWA is a money pit, no matter how you look a it. The towns have proven they cannot run a Utility, let the State take it over as a pumping Station extension of the Providence/Pawtucket water resources, under the purview of the PUC. I could even live with that if the rate went up somewhat. At least I would have more trust then I do now. No water pressure, but some trust.
Bob Venice June 03, 2012 at 05:53 PM
We are going to reorganize. This will make the tax payers rates go up. This place is not as bad as I thought it would be? It sure did not take Ms Marchard to become anti Waarren Tax payer. By the way, will she have to move to Warren and pay taxes for what we call water, as Bill Nash, get paid here and pay taxes elswhere..

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