JAY — Jay Village and North Jay water districts’ customers have until March 30 to petition the Maine Public Utilities Commission to investigate proposed water rate increases.

The Jay Village Water District’s increase is proposed at an overall of 29.6 percent, which is broken down to 14.8 percent on April 1 and another 14.8 percent on April 1, 2016.

The increase proposed for customers of North Jay Water District is an overall total of 22.5 percent split into 11.25 percent on April 1 and another 11.25 percent on April 1, 2016.

The rate increases are needed to keep the water districts viable, according to district officials.

The rates are expected to go into effect next month unless 15 percent of the customers of the specific district file a petition with the PUC and the PUC postpones the increase, Ron Moreau, treasurer of both districts, said.

Representatives of the PUC provided the district with the exact copy of the wording to be published in a notice in January advertising upcoming public hearings and proposed rate increases, he said.

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The two districts are overseen by two different boards of trustees but the same superintendent and treasurer.

District officials had initially proposed the rate increase to go into effect Jan. 1. Letters went out to customers and there was a story on the proposals in the Sun Journal last year.

Officials received notification from the PUC that since an official notice was not published in a newspaper in September 2014, two official notices had to be published in a newspaper and second public hearings held.

Moreau said he had asked the PUC for the exact wording of the notices and that was published in the newspaper in late 2014. That postponed the rate increase until April 1.

District officials received a second notification from the PUC in February that the second notices that were published still had a requirement missing. It did not list customers rights to petition to the PUC to investigate the increase.

A PUC representative acknowledged that the error was theirs, and that they gave Moreau outdated information, he said. They apologized and said the water districts had done all that was required of them and would not have to hold a third public hearing, he said.

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But the law states that the full statement must be made available to each of the districts’ customers.

The districts filed proposed amendments about customers rights and included it in a third letter sent to customers and posted notices in the Sun Journal last week.

A petition would need to be filed with Moreau and the Public Utilities Commission by March 30. Petitions should be filed to PUC, c/o Administrative Director, 18 State House Station, Augusta, ME 04333-0018.

Customers’ signatures on each petition would be invalid unless accompanied by the printed names and addresses of signers. Blank petitions are available through the water districts.

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