PUC expected to issue determination

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WEST PARIS — The Maine Public Utilities Commission is expected to take up deliberations this morning, Thursday, Aug. 16, on whether to accept, reject or amend the July 25 Recommended Decision of the nearly eight-month-long investigation into allegations against West Paris Water District Trustees.

The deliberations will take place at the Commission’s headquarters at 101 Second Street, Worster Room in Hallowell.

The Public Utilities Commission’s preliminary recommendation is that the Attorney General’s office not investigate allegations against former West Paris Water District Trustees and that the Commission terminate its own investigation and take no further action.

It has further recommended that the Attorney General’s office not investigate the practices of the current Water District Trustees.

Harry Lanphear, administrative director for the Maine Public Utilities Commission, told the Advertiser Democrat on Monday that each of the three Commissioners will deliberate and discuss the item.

The Public Utilities Commission investigation was initiated in December of 2017 by a complaint to the Attorney’s General office from a “credible source” who raised a series of issues concerning the West Paris Water District’s Trustees and the way the District was being managed and operated.

The Attorney General’s office referred the inquiry to the PUC Commission’s Consumer Assistance and Safety Division (CASD) because of the “number and seriousness” of the allegations.

Many of the allegations are specific to former Trustees, but the investigation centered on the acts and practises of the current Trustees. The District’s Trustees at the time of Recommended Decision are Ralph Brown, chairman and Trustee since February, 2016, Mark Herrick and Clay Abbott, both elected at Annual Town Meeting in 2018.

No specific findings or recommendations were made against the former Trustees.

The Trustees of the West Paris Water District were questioned by the PUC on subjects ranging from aging meters, irregular billing of its 232 customers, the Pioneer Street project to replace a 1950s transit pipe that Water District trustees say repeatedly fails, internal handling of correspondence, Trustees working and being paid as employees and other matters.

Although the answers satisfied some of the questions, the PUC then opened up a summary investigation into allegations against the West Paris Water District because the information received had either opened up new questions or needed further review.

According to information contained in the July 25 Recommended Decision, the PUC has the right to determine whether the informal proceeding should be terminated with no further action taken or whether the Commission request a formal investigation by the Attorney General’s office to further consider the acts and practices of the District in an adjudicatory proceeding.

The Commissioners’ Order will be issued  following its deliberations Thursday.

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