By Susan Morse
Hampton Union, Friday, March 7, 2006
[The following article is courtesy of the Hampton Union and Seacoast Online.]
NORTH HAMPTON - The town's Water Commission is taking steps to buy Aquarion Water Company, according to the commission's chairman, Henry Fuller.
Fuller is sending a petition around town asking the Board of Selectmen to hold a special town meeting on the proposal.
Fuller had no price estimate on what it would cost taxpayers to buy Aquarion and have control of town water. But, he said the benefit would be cheaper rates, not only for the 15 percent of residents in town who get water from Aquarion, but for all taxpayers.
North Hampton pays Aquarion $1,169.11 per year for each of the town's 147 fire hydrants.
Fuller went before the state Public Utilities Commission last month to fight the $1,278.51 North Hampton will pay annually for each hydrant should the PUC approve the full rate increase for Aquarion.
The total annual price paid by taxpayers would be $187,940.97, Fuller said.
Fuller proposes a nonprofit company set up by the three towns that get water from Aquarion. The company also supplies 80 percent of the water in Hampton and 5 percent in Rye, according to Fuller.
Macquarie Bank Limited of Australia and the Kelda Group of the United Kingdom recently announced Macquarie would acquire Aquarion for $860 million.
The acquisition is subject to regulatory approval, from the PUCs in Connecticut, New York and New Hampshire. The closing is expected to occur by year's end, according to a released statement from Larry Bingaman, senior vice president of operations for Aquarion in Hingham, Mass.
"Do we really want (a company in) Australia owning our water company?" Fuller said.
Fuller said now was a good time to buy Aquarion when the company is for sale, before the PUC grants approval.