PARIS – The Paris Utility District held a public hearing Thursday night to discuss a requested 42 percent increase in water rates. The request to raise rates is the first in eight years.

About 20 citizens showed up to ask questions, give opinions and debate whether the rates should go up. Questions focused primarily on the chlorine treatment following the boil order back in November, how the rate structure works and whether the district is working on a long-term plan that would address capital improvements.

According to the PUD’s operating statement from the past three years, the district has been running a deficit that totaled $75,314 last year. Up until now, there have been reserve accounts available to make up for this loss, but those funds have recently run out.

Public fire protection revenue will go up 51 percent, while residential rates for water will increase 39.2 percent. “That’s about a $12 difference you’ll see on your quarterly bill,” explained board member Penny Lowe using data for a family of three or four.

When asked how the increase will be spent, Steve Arnold, utilities manager, replied, “standard operating expenses.” The price of copper has jumped enormously, according to the manager, and much of the equipment used is very old.

“This district has been very frugal, there’s not much waste,” noted Stephen Levy, executive director of the Maine Rural Water Association.

In the future, the district plans to make requests for rate increases more often at lower percentages. “We’ll probably come back to you about every three years, to make increases more gradual,” said board member Peter Bickford.

Customers have 30 days to petition the state Public Utilities Commission for additional review of the proposed increases. If 175 signatures are filed with the treasurer on or before June 10, the commission will suspend the increase and begin an investigation.