3 new elects take Norwood seats

Published 8:46 pm Monday, December 3, 2018

A packed Town Hall witnessed three newly elected commissioners take office in Norwood Monday night.

It was standing-room only as Harold Thompson began his tenure as Norwood’s newest mayor while Larry McMahon and political newcomer Betty Harrison took their commissioner seats on the Town Council.

Susan Taylor, an attorney and former Superior Court judge, administered their oaths of office.

As the new elects assumed office, they bade farewell to Mayor pro tem Linda Campbell and Commissioner Betty O’Neal.

The new board unanimously voted Commissioner James Lilly as the new mayor pro tem.

In another change, the council voted to move the start of the board meetings back to 7 p.m., beginning with the next meeting on Dec. 17.

Plans call for the council to resume meeting twice monthly with the possibility of changes later.

“I hope to get back to meeting once a month,” Thompson said.

One town-related issue seemed to pique the new commissioners interest with them planning a work session so they could bone up on the objective behind the planned installation of new water meters.

An order of 1,655 new water meters has arrived with plans for installation set for next month. Town leaders previously committed to new water meters because evidence suggests the current meters are not accurately recording water use.

“We have found that some meters are not reading all the usage,” Commissioner Robbie Cohen said.

The vast majority of the water meters are more than 25 years old.

McMahon seemed to be the most vocal about the rising costs on water bills.

However, the new meters will not represent any new charges. Any new charges are related to water use, since the town has implemented a rate increase to offset the costs of aging infrastructure. Norwood residents will experience incremental rate hikes on water over the next four years.

Any increases beyond the new rate hike of about $3.50 monthly for the first 1,000 gallons of water relates specifically to use.

Town officials said some customers have been using more water than realized on their bill. Or, the current meters have not been accurately reading water use.

Estimates suggest as much as 30-50 percent difference in the amount of water used versus water billed.

New meters will reportedly help capture the missed water use en route to the town realizing a more accurate reading and billing.

“Hopefully, it’ll be revenue neutral,” said John Mullis, town administrator.

Cohen advised the new board members the changes were made after the state made a presentation to the town. Without the new meters, “the state will take it over and they’ll do the billing,” Cohen added.

While there is no charge for the new water meters,  the town will subscribe to a service that regulates the meters.

In other business, plans call for the town to hold its annual Christmas dinner at noon Dec. 21. This year’s meal will be catered.