Chairman Peter LePage quits post at water district

By Carrie Saldo

The Transcript

WILLIAMSTOWN -- After nearly 15 years as the commissioner of the Hoosac Water Quality District, Peter LePage submitted his resignation to the Board of Selectmen Monday.

The board wasted no time appointing Elaine Neely to replace LePage as commissioner and chairwoman of the district.

In his letter, LePage -- a commissioner appointed by the town of Williamstown -- did not state a reason for resigning. However, the wastewater district has been the target of heavy criticism from Mayor John Barrett III, who says its proposal to privatize the wastewater treatment facility won't save ratepayers in North Adams and Williamstown any money like it should.

"I think he was a very frustrated person," said Commissioner William Fox.

In the past week, Barrett has accused members of the district of trying to ensure its privatization proposal maintains the status quo and has said its fiscal 2004 capital budget is too expensive.

"This is extremely difficult when you are dealing with this type of thing, and we've got Mayor Barrett throwing pot shots at us," Fox said. "We've been trying to do our best."

The last three scheduled meetings the district had  could not be held because North Adams commissioners John Moresi and Ronald Boucher did not attend.

Barrett has said he told commissioner Boucher to stay away, when he knewMoresi would be out of town, in order to prevent the passage of a capital budget that he said is an unnecessary expenditure.

HWQD Chief Procurement Officer Ridelto Nodal refuted Barrett's claims regarding the RFP and the capital budget last week.

With Requests for Proposals regarding possible privatization of the wastewater treatment plant due Wednesday at 1 p.m., Selectmen said they wanted to get another commissioner on board as soon as possible.

Barrett has said privatization would prove cheaper for the district which would in turn save member municipalities North Adams and Williamstown money. But he said some employees or district members are against privatization for fear of losing their jobs.

Selectman John R. Madden urged the Williamstown commissioners to take a close look at the alternatives presented in any RFP submitted.

"No matter what it is that you get in the proposals, the commissioners are going to line things up, you guys are going to make this decision," Madden said.

With the RFP due date right around the corner, the board said it wanted a new commissioner in place post-haste.

Selectman Charles T. Schlesinger said Neely's water operator's license as well as experience on the Finance Committee will prove useful at the district.

Ware said she would call Neely first thing today to inform her of her commissioner appointment as well as chairwoman of the district.

Selectmen voted 4-0 in favor of appointing Neely; Selectman John G. Merselis abstained.

The Selectmen unanimously accepted LePage's resignation with "deepest regrets and appreciation for services rendered" and said they would send a letter to LePage thanking him for his service.

The HWQD provides wastewater treatment services for Williamstown, North Adams and portions of Clarksburg.