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Water and wastewater audit ‘sterling,’ but rates low

Field mice in a backup generator led to more than $6,000 in damages, commissioners at the March 28 water and wastewater meeting learned. They were also told the annual audit of the water and wastewater departments is “sterling.”

Chairman Gary Walker and commissioners Wayne Cullins, Bert Mayer, Richard Gray and James Burke attended the meeting.

Michael Cobb, principal owner of Cobb and Suskie, Ltd., presented the firm’s 2012 audit of the Water and Wastewater departments.

Cobb pointed out the increasing margin between liabilities and equity for the water department. “That number goes up by two things,” he said.

First, there is a growing margin between revenue and expenses; second, by capital contributions by developers, the assets added by development, Cobb said.

Revenue over expenses is nearly $600,000, up from the last audit, Cobb said.

“It is encouraging to see an increase in that bottom line, brought about by a little better revenue and what is, obviously, holding the line and belt tightening on expenses,” Cobb said.

That is also shown by a reduction in operating expenses, he said.

It also helps that Cabot’s customer base is still growing, unlike many other utilities, Cobb said.

A hot, dry summer also serves to increase water revenue, Cobb said.

On the wastewater balance sheet, “We do see that the wastewater bottom line is in brackets, and has been for a number of years,” Cobb said. “We … invite the commission in its collective wisdom to consider the appropriate time to look at wastewater rates and to see if they are doing for you what you want them to do,” he said.

In other areas, Cobb described the records keeping by the department as “really sterling.”

“You had everything nailed down,” he remarked.

In many other municipalities, when he tracked expenses charged to multiple accounts, he often faced poor documentation, Cobb said. “Sometimes we have to raise issues,” he said.

“We did not have to do that here,” Cobb said. Good records keeping requires “a lot of time,” but it the office staff is doing that, he said.

“Of all the places I go, [Cabot] is the best place for looking at documentation…” Cobb said. “I would like the appropriate people … get some recognition for that.”

The numbers in the audit, “Indicate to me that this utility has been a good steward of the money entrusted to it by the rate payers,” Cobb said.

“For that reason, we did not find it necessary to issue a management letter or internal control comment,” he said.

In other matters, during a review of the budget Walker questioned an operating account being 535 percent over budget.

Finance manager Bruce Brown said the large expense in the field equipment category was caused by an unexpected repair.

Brown explained that mice had nested in one of the backup generators and had destroyed the wiring.

“It was very costly to get it repaired,” he said.

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