Jay sewer rates to rise $15 per unit to $210

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JAY – Selectmen set the annual sewer rate for fiscal 2007-2008 at $210 per unit, $20 shy of the town’s sewer superintendent’s recommendation but $15 higher than the current rate of $195 per unit.

The board also agreed Wednesday to explore options for next year of charging sewer fees by water use and the feasibility of setting up a five-year rotation cycle of pumping residents’ septic systems to compensate taxpayers who are not on public sewer but pay for it through taxation. Those were among the ideas discussed by residents and town officials at the meeting.

Sewer Department Superintendent Mark Holt proposed a rate hike to $230 per unit to increase revenue and offset the amount of tax dollars needed to subsidize sewer expenses.

Holt’s proposed budget for next year is $707,500, up $3,602 from this year.

If selectmen approved the $35 increase it would have increased anticipated revenue from this year’s $228,540 to $267,720, which would have decreased the amount of townwide taxation from $475,448 to $439,780 to subsidize the budget.

Holt said he does his best to keep costs down and has been involved in petitioning for less testing through the state Department of Environmental Protection.

He also said he plans not to fund the reserve account, which has about $250,000 in it, for the next two years and start putting $10,000 in the account each year starting in the third year.

It should cover upgrades of equipment and vehicle replacement among other expenses, Holt said. If the Route 4 project goes through, the town would borrow to replace sewer lines.

His proposed five-year plan would incrementally increase user fees so that by fiscal 2011-2012, sewer users would pay the cost of the operation and maintenance budget, which would be about $400 a unit, he said.

Statewide in 2004, owners of an average house in Maine paid $400 per unit annually, Holt said. Without taxation kicking in, a property owner in Jay on town sewer would pay $608 per unit yearly, he said.

Residents raised concerns about fairness of being charged per unit rather than by water usage, having such a big increase at once and schools and town buildings not paying sewer fees and having everyone share in the cost.

Town Manager Ruth Marden said they are looking into the cost of changing the sewer fee structure to be based on water used rather than a lump sum.

Selectmen’s Chairman Bill Harlow said he gets phone calls from residents if selectmen do raise the sewer rates and if they don’t. Harlow said he had been brainstorming ways to make it fairer and equalize the cost for people not on town sewer.

One idea was to find out if it was feasible to set up a rotation to have residents’ septic systems pumped out at the town’s expense.

Prices of pumping out a septic system ranged from $150 to $400, residents and selectmen said.

“I think $230 is too much,” Selectman Rick Simoneau said.

A lot of work needs to be done before next year, he said, to find a way to make it fair to all.

Harlow, Simoneau and Selectman Steve McCourt voted to set the rate at $210. Selectmen Barry McDonald and Amy Pineau were absent.

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