NORWAY — The Maine Public Utilities Commission has approved an increase in water rates of more than 38 percent for most customers.

Lucretia Smith of the PUC said the new rates went into effect 30 days after a June 29 public hearing.

“There are no deliberations. They go into effect by operation of law on the effective date,” Smith said.

According to Smith, Norway Water District filed for the rate increase and held the required public hearing in Norway on June 29.

“If we do not receive a petition from 15 percent of the customers or 1,000 customers, depending on the size (of the town) and whichever is less, then within 30 days the rates are allowed to go into effect,” she explained.

Under the new rates, the overall increase for residential customers is estimated to be $54,641 over 2009 revenues for a 38.75 percent increase. The new rate schedule includes a minimum hike on 5/8-inch meters from $35.76 per quarter to $49.62 for an increase of 38.75 percent.

Commercial charges have increased according to meter size and usage for an overall increase of $21,285 or approximately a 38.75 percent increase. Industrial charges increase according to meter size and usage for an overall increase of $1,020 or approximately a 38.75 percent increase.

Public fire protection charges have increased by $21,264 or approximately a 20 percent increase. Private fire protection charges increased by $5,386 or approximately 38.75 percent increase.

The governmental charges will increase according to meter size and usage for an overall increase of $2,983 or a 38.75 percent increase.

Residential customers, who are billed quarterly, can expect to see the new rates in the September bill. The first bill on the new rates will be pro-rated. Commercial vendors are billed monthly.

According to information sent from John Longley, chairman of the Board of Trustees for the Norway Water District, to the Board of Selectmen in June, the district filed for a rate increase with the state agency due to an increase in debt service on new construction and an increase in operating costs.

The proposed water rate increase is intended to generate $106,579 additional revenues, which represents a 32.34 overall increase from 2009.

Because the water district is a separate entity from town government, any interested party was allowed to provide comment on the rate request with the PUC at the hearing, but town government entities, such as the Board of Selectmen, have no jurisdiction over the rates.

Town Manager David Holt said earlier that part of the increase was due to the decision to make water main improvements under the local roads that were open during sewer construction.

The Norway Water District was recently awarded a $437,000 low interest loan from the U.S. Department of Agriculture for replacing the 115-year-old cast iron water mains in the downtown section. They will be replaced in conjunction with a major sewer line project that gets under way this summer.

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