LISBON — Water Commission Chairman Bill Bauer continued his efforts to persuade Town Council members to change the structure of the Water Department Tuesday night, rather than let the town take it over.

Last year, the Town Council submitted a bill to the state Legislature to end the elected three-person commission that has been operating the entity and bring it under the control of the town.

However Bauer and fellow commissioners Ken Wells and Stanley Doughty Jr. countered with another bill that would convert the operation to a water district.

Since then, the council and the commissioners have tried to reach an agreement on what will best serve the interests of the customers who pay for public water.

Council member Eric Metiver asked, “Is there any savings in this?”

“I think the town would save some money,” Bauer said. “How much? I don’t know. But I do know a district would qualify for a better rate than going through the Maine Bond Bank.

“With the current debt structure we have, we could go out and borrow at a rate that is a quarter percent lower,” Bauer said, referring to the continuing infrastructure improvements that are required.

“The price of replacing a water main on Route 196 is now $115 per foot,” he said.

Council Chairwoman Lisa Ward asked if they have any estimates on the cost to make the switch to a district.

“We’ve been told it’s about $20,000,” Bauer said.

“Where does the $20,000 come from?” Ward asked.

Bauer referred the question to Steve Levy, executive director of the Maine Rural Water Association, which represents water districts in the state.

“My guess is it would be assumed by the water district,” Levy said. “This is not an expense to the town.”

Part of the cost to form the district involves the legal transfer of land and property from the water department into the district, Levy said. This can be done by quitclaim deed or by other means.

“I hope we don’t have to get deeds for all 250 of our hydrants,” Bauer quipped.

Councilor Dillon Pesce asked if the water customers will notice any change under the proposed district.

“Only on our letterhead,” Bauer said.

Levy noted that Lisbon currently has one of the lowest water rates in the state.

Regardless of whether the district is formed or not, Bauer said, “Water rates won’t go down, either way.”

It is expected that a referendum question will be put before residents in November asking if they want to change to a water district.

Referring to the public hearing that will precede it, Dorothy Fitzgerald said, “Public hearings are not well attended. How are they going to get the word out?”

Fitzgerald said the defeat of a proposed water tower last November had more to do with where the tower would have been located than whether it was needed or not.

“I think it was probably the best location, but the public needs to be informed. I think changing this to a district would be a really, really good thing,” she said.

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