RUMFORD — The Rumford Water District is in a “sound financial position,” its auditor told those at a district trustees’ meeting Wednesday night.

Ronald H. R. Smith of RHR Smith & Co. of Buxton, certified public accountants, was asked to attend the meeting because of questions raised by the citizens group Protect Rumford Water Alliance about district finances.

“The Rumford Water District has maintained equity of $1.1 million for the past three years,” Smith said. “That puts you in a better position than many of the water districts in the state.”

Protect Rumford Water Alliance is opposed to a proposed water-extraction contract between the Water District and Poland Spring Water Co. 

Len Greaney, a member of the alliance, has said water district financial reports over six years and reports downloaded from the Maine Public Utilities Commission website led to the group concluding that the district has a debt of $3.52 million that demands annual bond payments of $337,000 until 2028.

He also 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.

Most of Wednesday’s meeting, attended by 40 people, was focused on the proposed water extraction ordinance developed by the water district and going to voters June 13.

It says the purpose of the ordinance is “to protect the quality and quantity of ground water located wholly or partially in Rumford, to insure that any large-scale water extraction is subjected to prior review and approval so as to establish the ongoing sustainability and quality of  … water supplies …”

Patrick Lyons of Eaton Peabody, legal counsel for the Water District, said under the large-scale groundwater extraction ordinance, selectmen could only issue a permit if the applicant first obtains approvals and permits from the Maine Public Utilities Commission, the Maine Department of Environmental Protection, the Maine Drinking Water Program and the Rumford Water District.

Lyons said that if the ordinance passes, it can be amended at any time.

Another presentation on infrastructure conditions and future costs for the Water District was made by Al Hodsdon of A.E. Hodsdon of Waterville. Foreseeable improvements over the next decade will total close to $8.1 million, he said. These include $770,000 for the downtown infrastructure replacement and $160,000 for the Falls Hill booster station.

Regarding scheduled bridge replacements by the state in 2018-19, the Water District cost to replace the High Bridge watermain would be $200,000, and another $78,000 to replace the Swift River Bridge watermain, he said.

There would also be more than $3.5 million to replace sections of aging pipe in various roads and streets throughout town, Hodsdon said.

“Once that’s done, there won’t be any town pipes much older than 1940,” Hodsdon said.

Water District Superintendent Brian Gagnon said district trustees will meet at 4 p.m. Wednesday, May 31, in Rumford Falls auditorium, post draft contracts for a deal with Poland Spring and hold a public meeting to provide an overview of the contract terms.

Gagnon said the trustees will post the contracts for 30 days and hold a second public hearing. The trustees will wait at least 30 days before taking any action on a contract.

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