RUMFORD — A group opposed to a proposed contract between the Rumford Water District and Poland Spring Water Co. is questioning the district’s finances.

Len Greaney of the Protect Rumford Water Alliance said 75 people attended an information meeting moderated by Walter Buotte last week at the American Legion Hall.

Poland Spring, a subsidiary of Nestle Waters North America, has proposed a 15- to 20-year contract to draw up to 150 million gallons a year from two new wells on district property off Route 5. In exchange, Poland Spring would pay the district more than $400,000 in annual lease and water payments.

Greaney said discussion at the May 17 meeting highlighted Water District financial issues, which are viewed by some as serious enough for the district “to succumb to a bad deal with Nestle” to get money to pay its bills and provide funds for the Rumford Downtown Project.”

Viewing Water District financial reports over six years and reports downloaded from the Maine Public Utilities Commission website, Greaney said the group concluded the district has a debt of $3.52 million that demands annual bond payments of $337,000 until 2028.

Additionally, Greaney said the Water District has not addressed the need for a water rate increase. He said if it raised its rates to $63 per quarter, which is the average of 136 Maine towns, it would receive an additional $350,000 annually. That would negate the need to accept the Nestle deal, which provides only $220,000 annually for water sales, he said.

On another issue, Greaney said was highlighted at the meeting were several problems with the language in the water extraction ordinance going before voters June 13.

Selectmen in March voted 3-1 to accept an ordinance from the Water District. District trustees said their ordinance carefully, comprehensively and lawfully protects Rumford’s groundwater resources, and also creates a rigorous, fair and lawful permitting process.

One provision states that if Nestle overpumps the Ellis River aquifer, all extractors, including the Water District, would have to stop pumping, Greaney said.

“Surely, a water ordinance must dot all i’s to ensure legal protections for our local inhabitants,” Greaney said.

The water district has about 1,600 customers, though Rumford has more than 4,300 registered voters, according to the town. 

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