BETHEL — As the time approaches for Bethel to start billing some dwelling units individually for sewer usage for the first time — rather than continuing to bill the overall apartment building or complex where they are located — Selectmen Don Bennett said he has been hearing complaints.

The town ordinance provides for a separate charge for each dwelling unit in a house or living complex, but some older buildings with multiple apartments, for example, have still been charged as a single unit. Last year, Bethel found about 100 units in older buildings.

Newer buildings and condos are already billed under the individual dwelling-unit system, according to town officials, and bringing the others into the system will be more equitable.

In addition, the sewer budget has been operating at a deficit, prompting town officials to look for more money.

The town has been charging $121.35 per quarter for using up to 1,500 cubic feet of water. If more is used, the charge is $8.09 per 100 cubic feet.

Letters went out last fall outlining the billing change, which is scheduled to start in July. The actual bills under the new format, however, will not go out until October.


Some building owners who objected last fall said rates should be based solely on usage, not on units or minimum charges.

Bennett said Monday that he had recently heard from people who he said were doing research to either try to “negate” the change or understand why the town had “something in ordinance that somehow got lost, that we didn’t use, and all of a sudden we, in a sense, kind of go looking for money and we found this. The obvious thing that we said and offered up was ‘be thankful we didn’t find it 10 years ago or eight years ago, because then you’d have been paying for the last eight years.’”

Bennett also said people who had contacted him had asked that if the change must happen, that it be done in phases so they wouldn’t get a very large increase all at once. One suggestion for a phase-in, he said, was “perhaps a five-year period or something to allow them to at least be able to pass some of the charge on in little increments to renters and people in those apartments or businesses or whatever it might be.”

Town Manager Jim Doar said he had suggested to one customer who had complained to “give us a proposal.”

Doar also said there might be opportunity to adjust the minimum quantities of water for billing.

In other business at Monday’s meeting, selectmen proposed a change to the sign ordinance to allow the code enforcement officer, rather than the Planning Board, to approve sign applications. Appeals would go to the Planning Board, Doar said.


He said the value of such a change was demonstrated this week, when the Planning Board meeting was canceled due to lack of a quorum. On the agenda, Doar said, was the Bethel Farmer’s Market, which he said wishes to start operating Memorial Day weekend. Planners are not scheduled to meet again until May 28.

A public hearing is required and has been scheduled for 7 p.m. May 29.

Selectmen also:

* Heard an update that towns in the Oxford County Regional Recycling Corp. will be able to choose between continuing their current recycling system and going to a single-stream system beginning Jan. 1, 2015. Doar said the issue will be discussed by the local Tri-Town Transfer Station board that represents Bethel, Newry and Hanover.

* Approved the transfer of the Time Warner Cable cable franchise to Comcast.

* Accepted the resignation of Public Works employee Eli Mann and authorized hiring a replacement.


* Approved a request to place Lyme Disease Awareness ribbons for May at the Town Office.

* Approved replacing an outside light at the Town Office and the gazebo with a green light.

* Approved a request from the New England Patriots Charitable Foundation to post information in the Town Office about Patriots license plates that are available and support nonprofit organizations in Maine.


Town Clerk Christen Mason announced the ballot for the June 10 town elections.

For selectmen, the candidates include incumbents Pat Carter and Lloyd Sweetser and challengers Aaron Crockett and Gabe Perkins (residents will vote for two).

For SAD 44 director, incumbent Roberta Taylor and newcomer Amy Forbes Devivo are running (vote for two).

For assessor, Donald G. Bennett and Robert Blake (vote for two).

Polls will be open from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. at the Crescent Park Elementary School.

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