Ward 8 Republican City Council candidate Lyn Jennings is concerned that her opponent, Democratic candidate Joseph Gallucci, sits on the board of the Kent County Water Authority. She views it as a conflict of interest to be a member of the board while running for City Council.
“Looking over all the past increases to the rates at Kent County Water that Mr. Gallucci has voted for are not in the best interest of the taxpayers,” she said via email. “Did you know that a portion of Warwick is on Providence water and pays half of what people on Kent County pay?”
During a phone interview Tuesday afternoon, she continued to explain her stance, noting it’s a matter of “fairness.”
“One of the biggest complaints from the constituents in the ward has been about sewers and water,” she said. “Some of the people receive Kent County water, but the other portion of Warwick pays to Providence water – the rate is almost doubled. Many people are aware that Mr. Gallucci sits on the Board at Kent County Water and has been in favor of all the rate increases that have happened.”
But during an interview Wednesday morning at his campaign headquarters, Gallucci said the Kent County Water Authority doesn’t set the rates, as the Public Utilities Commission (PUC), located at 89 Jefferson Boulevard, regulates the Authority.
Tim Brown, general manager of the Authority, confirmed Gallucci’s claim.
“Public Utilities sets the rates for all our customers,” said Brown.
Brown also said that the Rhode Island Recourses Board did a study on rates in 2010 and lists all the larger communities based on the annual cost for 73,000 gallons used in comparison to all communities. The website, which can be accessed through wrb.ri.gov, lists the rates for Warwick at $254.19, while Kent County is listed at $497.80.
Regardless, Jennings said a lot of constituents question where Gallucci’s loyalty would lie if elected – to the taxpayer or the Kent County Water Authority.
“If he’s serious about running for a seat on the Warwick City Council, he should resign from Kent County Water immediately,” Jennings said.
If elected, said Gallucci, he plans to contact the Ethics Commission and ask them if it’s appropriate that he continue to serve. His appointment ends in 2015.
Gallucci, who has sat on the Kent County Water Authority for 17 years, was first appointed for a 10-year term in 1995, along with a second term, for which he was appointed in 2005. In that time, he has served as chair, vice chair and is currently the treasurer.
“Anytime we ask for funds, there’s a rate increase tied to it,” Gallucci said. “Most of the time, when the vote is taken to go forward to PUC with our request, I vote in opposition because the impact on the Warwick residents serviced by Kent County is more so. The impact puts us in a position where the rates become even higher.”
Brown also said, “Most of the time, he has not voted in favor of going for a rate increase.”
Gallucci said Warwick has approximately 25 percent of its own wells. Seventy-five percent is purchased from Providence Water on wholesale.
“Kent County has several pumping stations, so our rates are higher because of the ability to get the water to the residents,” he said. “Can we attempt to equalize water rates that everybody in the city of Warwick pays? Yes, we can do that only by incorporating the tanks, the distribution system, the pumping stations – we have to maintain all those. This adds to the rates. Have I voted to increase rates? No. We only vote to get funds for infrastructure.”