Kingfield sewer customers face higher bills

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KINGFIELD — Customers on the town’s wastewater system will see an increase in their quarterly bills, but selectmen continue to debate a rate structure.

At their Monday evening meeting, selectmen reviewed some unanticipated costs required to fund a complete overhaul of the wastewater collection system and equipment. The goal, determined in all of the past year’s discussions, will provide self-generated annual revenues to pay for the wastewater system.

Selectmen confirmed that the income range of the customers served by the current system qualifies the town to apply for a Community Development Block Grant of $450,000. The town must provide 25 percent cash commitment of $112,000.

If selectmen agree to borrow the money for a cash match, they could use the wastewater reserve account, and the ratepayers’ increase should be enough to repay that loan.

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Grant funds for 2013 total $2.75 million, and several towns are submitting applications for the second year.

Consultant Rodney Lynch cautioned that selectmen should not have overly optimistic hopes they will receive grant money this year, but all of the groundwork will be done, paving the way for a 2014 request.

“So if we borrow the money for the cash match, and we don’t get the grant, can we save the money for the next round?” Selectman Wade Browne asked.

Lynch confirmed that any amount reserved for matching funds would not be spent until the town receives the grant money. Replacing old electrical wiring on the pump stations and purchasing a new compressor. Some of the work will be contracted, which adds to the total cost.

Selectmen will be required to hold a public hearing and submit the grant request by the first week of March.

“People are going to want to know exactly how much money we are going to have to spend,” board Chairwoman Heather Moody said. “Before we schedule a meeting, we’re going to have some hard facts.”

Tom Dubois, an engineer and manager at Main-Land Development Consultants of Livermore Falls, provided selectmen with a financial update, saying upgrades and repairs would require an additional $10,000 of annual revenue from ratepayers if selectmen approve all the repairs required.

“We added the cost of a newer compressor and for the cost to replace all of the electrical (work) on all of the pump stations,” Dubois said. “Also, I had contracted some of the work to be done by the supplier, so those numbers are higher because of the contractor cushion.”

Selectmen also can prioritize items on his proposed budget and postpone some costs, but state grant money may not be available.

Ratepayers have not seen a wastewater system increase since 1993, according to Administrative Assistant Douglas Marble.

Selectmea Mervin Wilson suggested a usage rate increase of 12 percent, plus an annual base rate of $150, would provide the necessary revenue.

Selectmen also discussed the option of increasing commercial rates on a per-gallon basis, based on the number of “design units” in a building.

Hotels, restaurants and apartment buildings would have more toilets, sinks and showers, but residential users would have a more consistent year-round wastewater system usage.

Marble will call Steve Levy, executive director of Maine Rural Water, to present selectmen at their Jan. 21 meeting with ways to generate the necessary increased revenue.

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