Mayor Elorza, City Council oppose privatizing water supply

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) – The Providence City Council unanimously approved a resolution Thursday asking the Elorza administration not to sell the city’s water supply to a private entity, an option the mayor’s office says it is not considering.

A recent report outlining ways Providence could improve its finances suggested the city should consider a one-time asset transfer worth at least $372 million – the value of the water supply’s assets in 2015 – or smaller annualized payments over time that could come as a result of a sale or lease. The study recommended the proceeds be used to improve the funding of the city’s pension system.

“A private company would purchase our water supply for one reason: profit,” Councilman Seth Yurdin, the resolution’s sponsor, said. “The city gets a one-time windfall, and our residents are stuck paying the bill now and for generations to come.”

The Elorza administration has repeatedly maintained that it does not want to sell the water board to a private entity. Evan England, a spokesman for the mayor, said the city would consider “regionalization” of the water supply.

England stressed that the idea for selling the water supply one was one of many suggestions made in the report. He said the city has not begun studying how to move the plan forward.

It is widely believed that city officials would need legislative approval to initiate any transfer of the water board. During a trial involving a group of retirees and the city last month, former Mayor Angel Taveras testified that he didn’t believe the city could benefit from the sale of the water system because the proceeds would need to be returned to ratepayers (approximately 60% of the state’s population uses Providence Water).

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Dan McGowan ( dmcgowan@wpri.com ) covers politics, education and the city of Providence for WPRI.com. Follow him on Facebook and Twitter: @danmcgowan

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