Sewer rates raised; users ask town to help address debt

LIVERMORE FALLS — Selectmen voted 4-1 Monday to raise sewer rates by 20 percent. The decision came after a public hearing where some sewer users asked for help from the town to get the system out of debt.

The board, in its capacity as Sewer Department trustees, also pledged to look at other options to help offset the cost of sewer system and treatment plant and bring it to voters in June. One option is to have non-sewer users pay through taxation to help get the system out of debt.

The rate increase raises the base rate from $55 to $60 per unit each quarter and increases the water use rate from 4.3 cents per cubic foot of water used to 5.16 cents.

The decision, which was opposed by Selectman Jim Collins, came after discussion with residents including landlords during a public hearing.

The increase would bring in an additional $17,029 per quarter or $68,119.84 annually, Town Manager Kristal Flagg said, which is still not enough to cover expenses.

“We have been in the red for quite a few years,” she said.

The Department finds itself in the negative nearly $100,000 annually, she said.

A 35 percent increase would be ideal to cover debt, she said, but “we all realize that’s a huge increase for users.”

The Sewer Department took out loans over the years to pay for upgrades to the infrastructure and the plant but sewer rates were not adjusted, Flagg said. Currently $200,000 is needed annually to pay for loans.

Some $177,072 is owed in back sewer fees including a trailer park that owes $50,000 but has not reached the stage of foreclosure.

Resident and landlord, Wayne Knowlton said this is a Band-Aid fix and there is no stopping the rates from continuing to increase.

“You’re going to come back for more money,” he said.

One town he knows of raised $30,000 through taxation for several years to get the Sewer Department out of debt, he said.

“In my opinion, the sewer is the town,” Knowlton said, and without it, there would be no commerce.

It is physically impossible for users to pay for all of the upgrades and the treatment plant repairs, he said.

Sewer users pay for the entire sewer system including the plant. Jay pays 54 percent for the wastewater treated at the plant from that town for maintenance and operation of the Livermore Falls Wastewater Treatment Plant. Livermore Falls pays 46 percent.

The town has lost businesses and has vacant buildings that previously paid for sewer including the middle school, Knowlton said.

“We’ve got to do something here,” resident and landlord, Kenny Jacques said.

He and Knowlton said the whole town should pay toward the plant’s upkeep and sewer infrastructure.

What worries him, board Chairman Bill Demaray said, is that if people cannot afford to pay the back sewer fees now, how would they pay for an increase. He suggested the board look at putting an article to voters at the annual town meeting to help address the situation.

Jacques said that he doesn’t mind paying for paving roads not in the downtown area. It should be the same for those who don’t have sewer, he said.

He suggested the town dip into its $1 million undesignated fund to help offset costs. The money is to run the town for three months in case of an emergency.

Selectman Ken Pelletier said that if those not on town sewer have to pay for the system, that would make taxes rise.

He asked if sewer users were going to help pay for his septic system when it needs to be emptied or rebuilt.

“Why should I have to pay?” Pelletier asked.

Flagg said she has heard it all from both sides but something needs to be done.

If the tax rate was raised $1 per $1,000 of valuation for one year, it would bring in about $157,000, resident Ron Chadwick said.

Demaray, who has town sewer, said it was going to be a hard sell to taxpayers who don’t have sewer.

It’s going to be a war between sewer users and non users, Knowlton said.

dperry@sunjournal.com

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Comments

CAROL PARKER's picture

It just seems like there is no end.

In the almost six years I have lived here and have been a property owner, my property taxes have almost doubled and my quarterly sewer bill has more than tripled. Enough is enough. It is time for people to stop sitting on their hands and keep asking for more money to fill a black hole with. I don't think there is much more blood left in the turnip. Instead of begging for more money to operate, the town should be looking at ways to make the plant generate revenue. There has been research done on using treated wastewater for algae production to make biodiesel. The federal government has set aside millions of dollars to develop this technology. Exxon/Mobil in conjunction with other investors have also spent $600million to develop this technology. Algae is considered far more efficient for producing fuel than corn or soybeans and does not use up arable land that could be used for food production. It is alternatives like these that could turn a liability for a municipality into a revenue source in the future. Food for thought.

Ken Perry's picture

Sub. housing

Also in Livermore falls there are plenty of "subsidized" rents, go after the state and or landlords to adjust the rent or rent subsidy. We as tax payers are already helping alot of these people make their rent payments and heating assistance, food stamps etc. And as in my other post we already pay for alot of services that we do not get. I think its time to secede from the "village area" and let them run it any way they want. Take from Rte. 17 out thru East livermore and become our own town, tuition our kids to the school system and be done with it. Anyone willing to get a petition going I will help.

 's picture

Sewer usage

If i have to pay for a sewer that I do not have I expect the town to run the sewer past my house so I can hook into it. My worries would be over to have to maintain my own sewer system. This is like asking taxpayers that is not hooked into the town sewer to pay for a dead horse. Better come up with a better idea then that. You will have a full scale war on your hands if you don't.

Ken Perry's picture

NO

So now they are going to try and put the sewer problem on all taxpayers in Livermore Falls and not just the ones who use it??
Well first the selectmen dropped the ball again by "forgeting" to adjust for loans they took out so again we are all supposed to pay for bad management, I would think after the large theft from the sewer dept. a few years ago that they would have changed and started watching the cash flow.
I live outside the "village" and already pay for many services which I and my neighbors do not receive that the village area does, street lights, hydrants, side walk plowing and sanding, foot patrol or bycycle patrol from the Police dept. street sweeping, and even plowing my road as I live on Park st which is maintained by the state. This Town already has the highest tax rates in this area. Let the users pay the full rate and let the landlords Raise their Rents and demand that the Selectmen do their jobs and actually manage/over see the sewer dept. so this kind of thing stops happening. If the land lords can not afford to pay for their sewer bills then let them sell or raise the rents to cover the actual cost, a PRIVATE investor should not profit from the hard earned tax dollars from their neighbors.
Then how about if the town does a re-evaluation on all multi units and investment property and just raises the rates on those properties? A lot of commercial real estate in this town already has received Grants and free money from the Town and the State its time to make them stand on their own or let some new investor buy.

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