It is unfair for Braintree and Randolph to expect a town they dwarf in size to pick up an equal share of the cost of building a water treatment facility that will serve all three communities. It was equally unjustifiable, however, for Holbrook to slam the door shut on the possibility of resolving its disagreements with the Tri-Town Water District.

It is unfair for Braintree and Randolph to expect a town they dwarf in size to pick up an equal share of the cost of building a water treatment facility that will serve all three communities.


It was equally unjustifiable, however, for Holbrook to slam the door shut on the possibility of resolving its disagreements with the Tri-Town Water District.


Holbrook announced Friday that it is pulling out of the regional water district on grounds that the water board expected it to pay a third of the cost for a new $50 million treatment plant.


Holbrook, with a population of about 11,000, uses about 11 percent of Tri-Town water, while Randolph uses 37 percent and Braintree uses 52 percent.


After a year of negotiation, Holbrook Selectmen Chairman Robert A. Powilatis told Braintree Mayor Joseph C. Sullivan and the Tri-Town board that the town is no longer interested in their long-standing joint venture.


“It makes no sense to continue arguing about ... cost-sharing since Braintree wants Holbrook to subsidize its greater consumption,” he said.


Holbrook has identified Avon as a potential water system partner and is also exploring the possibility of getting water through the Massachusetts Water Resources Authority or Aquaria, the owner of a Dighton desalination plant that provides drinking water for several area communities.


The town is completely justified in exploring water options that could save it money, but all of those being considered present their own challenges and could end up costing it more in the long run.


Avon Selectmen Chairman Francis A. Hegarty said last week that a new water district would be feasible but would involve many engineering, legal and financial issues.


Creating such an alliance is certainly worth consideration, but, given the many unknowns involved, it would seem to be in the town’s best interest to continue discussions with the Tri-Town Water Board, even if a year of talks has failed to resolve differences.


Powilatis has said that Braintree had no intention of compromising on how the cost of a new plant is divided, claiming the strategy was to string Holbrook along until it was too late to bail out.


Sullivan, who represents Braintree on the board, this week said that’s not true and that, as long as Holbrook is willing to negotiate in good faith, there is flexibility on the issue of cost sharing.


“There’s always room for discussion,” he said.


This whole process appears to have been muddied in the past year by inflammatory rhetoric, inconsistent stances and defensive posturing, making it difficult for those involved to focus on the fact that a negotiated compromise may be in the best interests of all involved.


Calmer voices should counsel leaders on both sides to put past differences aside and come back to the table.


The Patriot Ledger