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.”