The Warren Town Council went back and forth during their Tuesday night meeting on whether or not to push through a resolution to the state legislature recommending that the Bristol County Water Authority (BCWA) be placed under the Rhode Island Public Utilities Commission (PUC).
The BCWA has come under criticism for a lack of transparency in a variety of issues including their finances and emergency protocols among others. Their integration into the PUC has been suggested with the hope that having to answer to a more authoritative state body will force BCWA to address these issues.
The Council voted to approve the the resolution in a 3-2 vote with Councilman Scott Lial, Davison Bolster and Council Vice-President Christopher Stanley voting for the resolution and Councilwoman Catherine Tattrie and Council President David Frerichs voting against.
However, the vote was surrounded in controversy and even after it passed, Frerichs made clear his reservations.
“I would rather stand behind something I’ve spent time reading,” Frerichs said. “Id rather see the facts.”
The facts he was referring to come in the form of a full investigative report into the BCWA done by a third party that will not make it to the Council until Wednesday morning.
Frerichs along with Tattrie wanted time to read the report, however, Senator Walter Felag and Representative Jan Malik who were there representing the Rhode Island General Assembly made it clear that their session would be ending at the end of the month and would not reconvene until next January.
This led Lial to lead a charge to push through the legislation with the facts presently available.
“I’m opposed to dragging this out because it’s not going to get done,” Lial said. “We are either going to do it now or we are not going to do it at all. I think that’s the position we are in.”
Lial was able to win over two of his fellow councilmen, however, this bill is still largely up in the air. It still must make it’s way to the General Assembly and pass in both the House and the Senate by the end of the month and according to Felag, that does not seem likely.
“The reality is that as I told you before, and I’m being perfectly honest, the Senate side would probably want a resolution from all three bodies; Bristol, Warren and Barrington,” Felag said, “and that just may not take place within the next week or two.”
According to Stanley this is not the first time this problem has come up. “Even if we did it now the stumbling block has always been the other two towns,” he said.
The fate of the BWCA will play out in the General Assembly over the next two weeks.