Special Interests Strike Again
This, reported in the weekend edition of the Newport Daily News, is very typical of the way Rhode Island does business:
The state has cited the company Newport’s water division hired to install new radio-read meters at all 14,500 water accounts in the city and in Middletown for not having master plumbers do the work.
The notice of violation from the state’s Division of Workforce Regulation and Safety caught the city by surprise.
Julia A. Forgue, Newport’s director of utilities, said forcing the city to hire master plumbers to change the meters would increase the project’s cost by two to three times. The contractor is appealing the decision to the Department of Labor and Training.
Non-plumber city employees have been changing and maintaining meters for years. These little requirements, jacking up the cost of living and operating in Rhode Island for the benefit of politically connected interest groups (notably unions), are why I say that the state could rocket out of its perennial recession if only it would toss aside its unnecessary burdens. This case is even more egregious, because the change of meters isn’t self-initiated:
The state’s Public Utilities Commission asked Newport to convert all water meters to ones that can be read from the street with a radio device, to reduce long-term costs and to make meter reading more efficient. The city in July 2008 awarded a contract to Stiles Co. Inc. of Norwood, Mass., to provide the meters. Stiles hired Five Oaks Construction Co. of Groton, Mass., as the subcontractor to install the meters, and it began the work in December 2008. By the end of last month, Five Oaks had installed just over 5,550 meters.
So, an unelected state board is requiring the change, and the state government is requiring that it be excessively expensive. Little wonder Rhode Islanders feel powerless (and just leave when the state hits their thresholds for tolerance of reductions in their quality of life).