FARMINGTON — Selectmen changed one item and approved a sewer abatement policy by a vote of 3-1 Tuesday.

Chairman Stephan Bunker and Selectmen Ryan Morgan and Dennis Pike approved the policy. Andrew Hufnagel voted no.

Some abatements had been requested in cases of water leaks where the water goes into the ground instead of the sewer system. While sewer rates reflect the amount of water used, a leak increases both water and sewer rates.

After the recent abatement requests, some research was done and a policy was created, Town Manager Richard Davis said.

“Not a lot of communities give abatements,” said Mavis Gensel, wastewater clerk who looked into how other towns handle the issue.

For landlord Jon Bubier, paying for the water when he had a leak in his trailer park was understandable, but paying the total sewer bill when the water goes into the ground was like being double-billed, he said.

The policy proposes allowing only one abatement per calendar year and requests verification of sewer usage and verification that the problem has been fixed. Any adjustment would be based on prior average for the past eight quarters but not lower than any of the past three quarters.

Bubier, using handmade graphics, questioned allowing only one abatement per year.  Every year, some apartment and trailer park owners have water issues that are often difficult to find and correct, he said.

The documentation of the problem and how it was corrected on the abatement application was also questioned.

“It’s an incentive for you to repair the problem,” Davis said, explaining how the Maine Department of Environmental Protection frowns on chlorinated water going into the ground.

“It’s not a good thing,” he said.

Water is dechlorinated at the treatment plant before it’s released into the river.

Selectman Ryan Morgan moved to pass the policy, striking the section that allows “no more than one abatement given in one calendar year.”

In other business,  selectmen:

* Approved changes to the town’s traffic ordinance with a request for discussions with Franklin Savings Bank about the hours of no-parking in their Front Street lots.

Accepted at town meeting last year, the hours were included in a license for the town’s use of the bank’s stairway and parking lots, Davis said.

Bubier inquired about changing the no-parking zone, currently from midnight to 7 a.m., to no parking from 1 to 7 a.m. because employees in surrounding restaurants might use the lots. Six local businesses have employees working until 1 a.m., he said.

Davis said he was not aware of any problem with the no-parking zone hours. Changing them would require a town meeting vote.

Hufnagel suggested accepting the ordinance changes to have something in place with the potential for amending the hours based on discussions with the bank.

The board also discussed a plan for replacing the assessing assistant who recently resigned. Davis told the board that the town clerk is acting as the assistant in addition to her regular duties.

This eliminates the need to hire a new assistant and saves the town $17,000 for the part-time position, he said.

Although the current town clerk can handle the position, it’s not for everyone, Davis said. If this clerk should leave, it could be difficult to find another town clerk who has the specialized training to handle both positions.

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