Philip - good & reasonable question! I don't have the exact figures in front of me, but generally 90-95% of the accounts are current with their bills. This is pretty good and excceds what other similar utilities experience. If you would like more details e -mail me from the City website.
Folks, I agree 20% sounds high but we need to ensure we understand what that means.
1st, the rate increase only applies to the water portion of the quarterly bills customers receive. It does not apply to the sewer or stormwater charges on the bill.
2nd, For about half of our customers who do not use a lot of water and pay the minimum charge (which includes most if not all of our senior citizens on fixed incomes) this amounts to $2.40 per month. This is the same cost as two 1-Gallon jugs of water at Shaws or Hannafords.
3rd, the increase is a result of projects we need to complete to meet state & federal regulatory requirements such as:
* the bird/gull control at Lake Auburn, which if we do not do we would likely be required to construct a filtration plant that would likely triple the rates we now have;
* the joint Lewiston & Auburn UV treatment plant and the chloramine disinfection plant, which meets the current treatment requirements;
* the pipe replacement and clean & line projects to address red & dirty brown water issues resulting from unlined cast iron pipes. Quite frankly, we are not replacing old pipe fast enough to keep up with this issue.
These are not nice to have items that a little "belt tightening" will pay for. We agree 20% sounds like a big increase, but we need to have some perspective.
Another option is available that could be implemented quickly with considerably less cost. This would be to re-stripe the roadway and change it from a 4-lane highway (2 travel lanes in each direction) to a 3-lane highway (1 travel lane in each direction and a center turn lane). Lewiston did this on outer Lisbon St (Rte 196) and it worked even better than expected. Speeds decreased as did the occurence of rear end collisions. Cost would likely be less than $50K & could be done quickly.
Just now returned from the site. Water service has been restored (was only turned off ~45 minutes). The crew will be backfilling the excavation and we hope to get it prepped and paved soon.
In response to the storm, Lewiston has issued a parking ban beginning 12:01am Thursday until 6:00am Friday. All vehicles should be removed from on-street parking before midnight tonight (Wednesday). Vehicles left on the street, will be towed. The City parking garages are available for use or other off-street parking should be found.
Lewiston has also announced a parking ban from 12:01am Thursday until 6:00am Friday. This is the first parking ban for this winter in Lewiston. All cars should be removed from on-street parking before midnight tonight.
Correction: I did not say "We don't expect to be working downtown." What I said was we would concentrate on the roadways and stay away from the edges of the roads. With the expected rain and warmer weather forecasted for this weekend we knew any snow we got wouldn't last long, so there wasn't a need for a parking ban.
Follow-up: We need to ensure residents understand that some streets in the City are posted for no parking Dec 1 - March 31. The changes in the parking ban has not changed any of these requirements. Any vehicle parked in these posted areas are violating a City Ordinance and may be ticketed / towed.
Director, Public Works
I am Lewiston's Public Works Director. The City Council has done a good job of keeping property taxes low and part of that was eliminating contractors hired to plow roads and also some staff reductions. We have 2 shifts to address winter storms. The first shift works for up to 16 hours from the start of the storm. For small storms, this may be all that is needed or there may be only some clean-up required after the 16 hours. Once we reach 16 hours, we need to send these folks home to get some rest. This is for their safety and that of the general public. At that point the 2nd shift comes in. The City budget doesn't provide funding to fully man all the snow fighting equipment we have on the 1st shift. We will have 2 sand/salt units, 7 combination sand/salt/plow units and 10 plow units on the roads during the 2nd shift. There will be 10 plow units, 1 sander and 4 sidewalk plows that will be parked during the 2nd shift because we do not have the personnel to operate them. The job of the 2nd shift for long storms is to keep our arterial and collector streets clear to maintain some mobility until the 1st shift operators can get some rest and then come back in to help finish up the end of the storm. We are confident this will work, but for long duration storms we expect there will be some streets that will not get the attention some have come to expect.
I agree with your insight regarding the intersection at the top of the ramp off Lisbon St. This was identified in the concept study the DOT and MTA did. Work to address this is part of the overall project DOT will be doing (in addition to the exit improvements MTA is funding). We here at PW and the City will keep after them to keep this moving forward.
Director, Public Works
Ray - This subject was discussed at a prior Council meeting and a prior workshop. At both the prior meeting and workshop and the meeting Tuesday night, there was the opportunity for both discussion and citizen input. The Council did discuss and ask good questions during the prior workshop and there was plenty opportunity for citizen input including last night.