WILTON — Voters learned Tuesday the details behind a two-part water rate increase meant to meet the increases in operating and maintaining the costs to run the water department.

Consultant Cathy Robinson of the Maine Rural Water Association said the rate increase was somewhat large since rates have not been raised since 1993. The Public Utilities Commission recommends rate review every three to five years, she added.

John Black of Wilton discusses an economic development grant application Tuesday at a special town meeting in Wilton. Franklin Journal photo by Dee Menear

The rate increase would be filed with PUC in 10 days and, if there was no petition to contest the rates, the first increase of 12.66 % would be effective July 1 and reflected in the October bill, she said.

The rate for 1,200 cubic feet or less of water usage will increase from $48 per quarter to $57, Robinson added.

A second increase of 16.57% will be effective July 1, 2020, she said.

Taxpayers will also absorb a $30,000 increase over the next two years for public fire protection costs associated with the increase, Robinson said.

“The PUC does not allow you to collect one penny more than what you need,” she noted.

Water and Sewer Department Superintendent Heinz Gossman said one of the department transmission lines would need to be replaced in the future.

“The PUC won’t even talk to me about funding the replacement because our rates were too low,” he added.

In other matters, voters approved submitting a $330,000 economic development Community Block Development Grant application. The competitive grant application is for two Wilson Stream Business Park businesses owned by John and Corey Black of Wilton.

John Black said the application is for the expansion of Rocky Hill Landscaping’s Earth Keeper Farm and soil bagging facility and the development of New England Hemp Institute.

NEHI will be a hemp drying facility capable of drying 20,000 pounds of hemp per hour. It will also provide hemp seedlings and hemp research, development and genetic storage through its cell tissue lab, Black said.

“We will be the only commercial hemp dryer in the country capable of drying hemp at this volume,” he added.

There would be no odor associated with the drying process, he said.

“We will be hiring 11 new positions,” Black said. “Wilton residents will have priority for these positions. More than 50% of the jobs will go to low to moderate income households.”

Black said the development plan totals $2.74 million.

CDBG money is awarded to local governments to assist businesses in creating or retaining jobs. The town applies for and administers the grant, said Town Manager Rhonda Irish.

“There are requirements the business needs to follow,” she added. “If they are not followed there is the potential the town will be liable for costs. That has not happened to us in the past.”

The application is due in two and a half weeks, Irish said.

Residents also considered a proposed Varnum Pond drinking water protection ordinance.

“This is just so everyone knows there is a no swimming on the pond,” said Gossman. “We are not changing anything, we are just trying to bring everything up to date.

“Varnum Pond is pristine. I consider it my job to keep it that way for the next generation.”

The ordinance will be voted on at the June 17 town meeting.


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