NORTHAMPTON — During its regular meeting on April 4, the Northampton City Council unanimously approved an order to maintain the same water and sewer rates last fiscal year for fiscal year 2025.

The amount resident users pay is based on the size of their pipe. Most users in Northampton have 5/8-inch or 3/4-inch pipe. For users with a 5/8-inch pipe, the water charge is will stay at $47 for each quarter of the year, while users with a 3/4-inch pipe will see their water base charge remain at $71.25 per quarter.

The quarterly base sewer charge for users with a 5/8-inch pipe, meanwhile, will stay at $28.85. Those with a 3/4-inch pipe will continue to pay $36.06 per quarter for a base sewer charge.

The city elected to maintain these rates as Northampton’s Coca-Cola bottling plant continues to wind down its operations.

“Due to the ongoing uncertainty and the volatility with Coca-Cola, we’re recommending no rate increase for either water or sewer this fiscal year,” said Mayor Gina-Louise Sciarra during the March 21 City Council meeting. “Despite growing costs, we have managed to keep the usage rates stable.”

Back in 2021, the Coca-Cola bottling plant in the Northampton industrial park announced that it would shutter its doors in the summer of 2023 after serving six decades in Northampton. The plant then delayed the closing until December 2023, and then delayed it again until at least the first quarter of 2024.

Now, according to Donna LaScaleia, the DPW director for the city, the hope is that Coca-Cola exits by the end of June, but the timing is still up in the air.

“We all acknowledge that Coca-Cola is still here, but they are tailing off month over month, and, again, we expect a full exit, and it is unclear kind of what that’s going to look like and what the timing is going to look like,” LaScaleia said during the March 21 meeting.

In the meantime, the plant is working in a diminished capacity as it has spent the last several months decreasing their operations in the city.

“They are running, I would say, at about 45% right now of what we would have seen from them,” LaScaleia said.

Readers can learn more about the situation regading Coca-Cola in the city by visiting Reminder Publishing’s prior coverage at www.thereminder.com/localnews/northampton/northampton-on-the-verge-of-maintaining-same-water.

During the April 4 meeting, the council also approved new language in the rules to allow for a hybrid meeting to continue as a remote-only meeting after a recess if the council president “determines that a disruption, disturbance or other interruption materially interferes with continuing the in-person portion of such hybrid meeting.”

City Council President Alex Jarrett said that the language came out of what happened during the council’s Feb. 15 meeting, when pro-Palestinian activists interrupted the City Council meeting in the council chambers to express their frustration that a ceasefire resolution was not on the agenda that night.

After using the allotted 90 minutes for public speak that night to show their disappointment, the protesters continued to chant and demonstrate, which forced the City Council to postpone the meeting and finish discussing the scheduled agenda items at a special meeting the following week.

If something like what happened on Feb. 15 were to happen again, the language would allow the council to continue the meeting remotely instead of scheduling a future special meeting.

“I think that we have our public comment period, we have the time, and we certainly have many opportunities to listen,” Jarrett said. “But, when it’s a disruption of the necessary business of the council, then this would be where the presiding officer would invoke [the new language].”

Ward 7 City Councilor Rachel Maiore noted how the new language can also be used for unpredictable inclement weather situations or for other unforeseen reasons that would force the council to have to transition to a remote-only setting mid-meeting.

According to the language, if the meeting must transition to a remote-only format after a recess, then the presiding officer will designate a time for the resumption of the meeting as remote-only.

The council voted 8-1 in favor of the new language. Ward 3 City Councilor Quaverly Rothenberg was the only person to vote no because she argued that the language should include a tidbit about how this can only be used when the council needs to meet a hard deadline with a certain agenda item.

“I really worry about this being overused as a way to run away from the public,” Rothenberg said. “I don’t think it’s a dangerous precedent for them to be able to shut down our meetings. I think that’s a very American precedent, and if they want to be able to do that from time to time, I don’t love the idea of exercising this kind of retreating and continuing our business and locking them out if it’s not absolutely necessary.”

Jarrett responded by saying Rothenberg is welcome to present amendments to the language in future meetings.

rfeyre@thereminder.com | + posts