BURRILLVILLE – Two local utilities – the Harrisville Fire District Water Department and the Pascoag Utility District – have announced that significant progress has been made in creating a new entity that would own and operate the current electric distribution system in Pascoag and Harrisville, and, after completion of the merger, also own and operate the water production and distribution system in the villages of Harrisville, Pascoag and Oakland in Burrillville.
The boards of each entity recently voted in favor of moving the merger forward at public meetings, with the HFD Operating Committee approving the concept unanimously at their meeting on Thursday, May 9, and the Pascoag Utility District’s Board of Utility Commissioners also indicating unanimous support on Monday, May 22.
They have also chosen a name for the new company, with the boards voting – again unanimously – in favor of creating “CREW” or Clear River Electric and Water District.
The plan will still need approval of customers in Harrisville and Pascoag, and a new charter will need to go before the Rhode Island General Assembly officially separating the Harrisville water department from the Harrisville Fire District, and combining the water and electric departments of both villages.
“This proposed merger makes sense in so many ways,” noted a release on the plan. “Water production and distribution systems, in particular, are facing an increasingly complex world in regards to operations and regulatory compliance. Bringing the companies together will allow much more efficient operating processes, compliance requirements, and the search for new water supplies to secure potable water long into the future.”
Proponents note that electric operations in Pascoag and Harrisville were brought together in the 1960s for the same reasons. The new ‘CREW,’ would bring all electric and water operations under one roof, with one board of commissioners, one management and operations team, and with the right of all utility customers to have a vote in the future of the new company, according to officials.
“Both teams have always strived to provide the best service to their customer base, and have always thought of themselves as being ‘consumer owned entities,’ there to serve their customers in the most efficient manner,” the release noted.
The consolidation group has also created a sample logo for the new entity – pictured above – which they say embraces the theme of combining water and electricity, with the Clear River symbolizing water and the sun representing electric service.
Once customers get the chance to weigh in on the merger at special upcoming meetings – likely to be scheduled in late summer or early fall – the group says they plan to refine the logo. A combined cost-of-service and rate study will be developed this summer so that customers can reflect on the financial aspects of combining the two utilities.
“This merger is expected to derive financial and operational efficiencies well into the future which will help us to meet upcoming capital and operating expenses in the most cost-effective manner,” the group noted.
The new quasi-public entity would be operated by a seven-member Board of Utility Commissioners that would initially include three commissioners from each existing board, and a seventh commissioner to be voted on by the new and expanded customer/member base in late 2024. Thereafter, all expiring terms of the commissioners would be voted on by the expanded customer/member base, according to officials.
The goal, they note, is to place the new charter before the General Assembly for vote during the 2024 session, with the new company to officially launch on January 1, 2025.
Al Palmisciano and Brayton Round, the respective chairpersons of PUD and the HFD Operating Committee, have both stated their excitement at, “the productive and cordial discussions formulating this proposed merger.”
“This merger will bring together two great districts that have worked closely and cooperatively together for many years,” they noted.