Glass to new BEGWS commission: Transition ... is difficult, will take time

Mary Perham

The role of the Bath Electric Gas and Water Systems Commission still needs to be ironed out, according to BEGWS commissioners.

The commission approved the utility’s most recent audit Tuesday, over the objection of village Trustee John Stranges. The approval came at a joint meeting of the village board and commission, one month after the utility board was officially sworn in.

Stranges complained the audit was not available before the meeting and said village trustees should be able to review the audit before the commission agreed to pay BEGWS bills.

But newly elected BEGWS Commission Chairman Harold Rodbourn said the group thought reviewing the audit was expected as a first step in taking on total oversight of the utility in two months.

“We were asked to join this volunteer commission, to help you do your duties,” Rodbourn said.   

“Now, we can’t have our hands tied totally.”

But Stranges said he goes back to the December 2010 state audit, which recommended one or two trustees review the utility bills.

Village trustee and BEGWS liaison Bill vonHagn said the audit made recommendations, but did not have enforcement power.

“It’s not illegal,” he said. “Listen, no one is trying to hide anything. There is no miscommunication, no mistrust, there’s nothing underhanded going on here.”

VonHagn said village trustees still had the ability to check the utility’s monthly bills.

Trustee Jeanne Glass said the transition between the village board and the commission is difficult and will take time.

“It isn’t black and white,” she said. “It’s more grey areas.”

“I understand that,” Rodbourn said. “But we can’t do our job with our hands tied.”

In other action, the commission unanimously appointed Michael Austin as its vicechairman.