LIVERMORE FALLS — Residents voted 21-6 Monday to withdraw $80,000 from the town’s undesignated fund balance to cover a Sewer Department overdraft during a special town meeting.
All five selectmen and Town Manager Kristal Flagg voted in favor of the withdrawal.
Livermore lawyer Clint Boothby moderated the meeting.
The town's sewer users pay for the sewer system and treatment plant. Jay contributes to the sewer plant operation and maintenance based on how much wastewater from Jay residents is treated at the plant. The formula is currently 54 percent for Jay, 46 percent for Livermore Falls.
The Livermore Falls sewer system serves the downtown and the outskirts of the in-town area. The remainder of residences are on septic systems.
The town’s undesignated fund had $1.12 million in it as of February. Withdrawal of the $80,000 will leave about $1.04 million, Flagg previously said.
Former Selectman Kenny Jacques made the motion to accept the article as written — to withdraw $80,000.
Resident Eric Rodzen said when he bought his house, he had to either put in a new septic system at a cost of $12,000 or extend the sewer line a few houses down for $20,000. He chose to put in a new system. He said he would support the measure if it was a loan that would be paid back, he said.
Rodzen was adamantly opposed to the proposal. He said he doesn’t believe he should have to pay for the Sewer Department, since the entity operates as a business and should support itself. If the rates need to be raised, then they should be, he said.
Jacques said sewer users had a 20 percent increase recently, and without the sewer system, businesses would not be in town.
As a selectman a few years ago, he said, Strickland Loop needed to be repaved, but it did not affect him.
“I think we are all in this together,” Jacques said. “We have a healthy surplus. It won’t affect the tax rate.”
Former Selectman Alphonso Barker asked what will prevent the Sewer Department coming back for more.
“It may have to be addressed again,” Selectman Chairman Bill Demaray said.
Since the equipment at the treatment plant and the sewer lines are aging, they may need to be replaced or repaired.
Resident Wayne Knowlton said that the Sewer Department was mandated to update the treatment plant by the Clean Water Act, and a federal grant was received to help pay for it in the 1990s.
The town shouldn’t expect the users to rebuild it, Knowlton said.
Resident George Cummings said town officials didn’t raise the rates as frequently as they should have. He said the town’s undesignated fund exists on paper.
Flagg said if everything was paid, the town would have the undesignated fund money.
Cummings said he agreed with Rodzen.
“When my septic system goes to heck, you’re not going to help me,” Cummings said.
He added that he was paying for his system, and now he was being asked to pay for the sewer users' system.
The nonusers also get tagged for increased hauling costs when they need to get their systems pumped, resident Ron Chadwick said.
Selectman Louise Chabot, who doesn’t have public sewer, said she feels, being part of the town, that there is a need to help pay for the town’s infrastructure to keep the plant running.
Knowlton said that Wilton voters raised tax dollars to pay for its sewer system.
Selectman Ken Pelletier said he agreed with the one-time use of taxpayer dollars to get the Sewer Department back on track, but no more.
The Sewer Department previously owed the treatment plant more than $100,000, partly because the sewer rate was not adjusted. The department is in debt about $1.9 million and cannot get any more loans, Flagg said.
The Sewer Department owes the treatment plant $82,000, she said.
The department collects the user fees, and the treatment plant’s operation and maintenance is supported by sewage flows from Jay and Livermore Falls, she said.
The two towns have agreed to take up to $60,000 from a plant reserve to help pay for a bar rack/screen that could cost up to $200,000. The $80,000 would be used to help pay for the repair.
Rodzen said he disagreed with Jacques comment that the $80,000 would not affect taxes. The money was raised by taxpayers, he said.
You are asking 1,100 taxpayers to support 711 users, Rodzen said.
Sewer Department Superintendent Greg Given said there are more repairs needed at the plant beyond the bar rack/screen. He also said that the Department is currently facing a sewer main collapse on Union Street that also needs to be repaired immediately before sewage starts backing up into homes and lawsuits are filed.
He also pointed out that the Sewer Department asked for a 35 percent increase and was given a 20 percent increase.
Cummings told selectmen that they are to be blamed for the situation since they only raised the rates 20 percent.