JAY — Selectpersons voted Monday to approve a modified sewer bill for the owner of a 13-unit apartment building, as allowed under the town’s sewer ordinance.

If the board had not agreed to follow a provision under the ordinance, the bill would have been $11,118 for the year, instead of the modified amount of $6,503.

Selectpersons declined to lower it any further.

The modified amount came from taking four quarters of water usage instead of using just the winter quarter to determine what was treated at the Livermore Falls Wastewater Treatment Plant.

Russ Nealy of Oxford, the owner of School House Apartments at 26 Jewell St., asked the board to help him with what he said was a 230 percent increase in the sewer bill.

“It is a huge, huge increase,” he said, and he hadn‘t planned on it.

He didn’t dispute the math, he said.

“I just have a problem with a 230 percent increase,” he said.

The previous two years of sewer bills were $2,890 and $2,772, Nealy said. The apartments are not always filled, he added.

If it had been an 8, 10 or 20 percent increase, it would be one thing, he said.

“All I want is a fair bill,” Nealy said. “I am willing to pay extra, but this is not a fair bill. I would like some help.”

The problem came about because a tenant had a running toilet and didn’t notify the manager of the building, he said. He found out about the problem when the Livermore Falls Water District sent him a bill showing that water consumption had doubled in the last quarter, he said.

He was out of state at the time, and the building manager went apartment to apartment to see where the problem was, he said. As far as they could tell, it was a running toilet.

The sewer bill was calculated on the winter quarter, which is considered to be November, December and January, at 42,600 cubic feet of water used and treated, according to information provided by Jay Sewer Department Superintendent Mark Holt. Other quarters reflected lower volumes of water usage — 16,200 cubic feet, 23,200 cubic feet and 17,400 of cubic feet.

The Livermore Falls sewer plant and Water District, which are separate entities, serve part of Jay.

Unfortunately, the water that was used went through the system, and the town was charged for treating it, Holt said.

He told selectpersons that whatever they did Monday would affect the future and the past because a dozen or so people had similar problems in the past and would want a change in what they were billed.

The town adopted a new sewer billing system in 2010 that requires sewer customers to pay for sewer service based on water use. It was to have those that use more water pay more and those who use less water, pay less, Holt told Nealy.

A provision in the ordinance allows sewer bills to be modified if a winter quarter water meter reading is 10 percent higher than all other quarters for the year. In that case, the town may use the total use for the entire year, instead of using the winter quarter multiplied by four.

Selectman Pearl Cook, a member of the committee that had developed the formula and ordinance, said the running toilet went on for a long time.

“It was water down the drain,” she said. “We worked hard on the ordinance to make it fair to everyone.”

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