CANTON — Selectmen decided Thursday night to gather more information on how to bill for sewer use after residents questioned the need to raise rates 20% beginning Oct. 1.

The information will be evaluated and presented at the board’s Sept. 26 meeting.

Gary Dougherty, a representative of Whitney Brookside Homes, asked at Thursday night’s public hearing why the five single-person apartments in the complex have varying rates for sewer bills, even though there is a separate building for laundry utilities.

“There’s a big difference, you go from $202 up to $275,” Dougherty said.

Selectman Scotty Kilbreth told Dougherty the sewer rates were established in 1987 and were based on water usage. “What we took was an average water usage in each one of those units and established the rate,” he said.

“We review the water usage from time to time to make sure they’re not out of whack from what we established the rates originally,” he said, adding that the last rate increase was in 2008 or 2009.

At last month’s Board of Selectmen meeting, Kilbreth said customers from one- or two-person households could expect to pay $16 more per quarter with the 20% increase.

Shawn Goodrow, superintendent of the Canton Water District, asked selectmen why the annual town report has no information on the Sewer Department budget and revenue.

“We should have the figures so that we can substantiate an increase,” Goodrow said.

Selectmen assured Goodrow that the sewer budget information was in the town audit report and would be in next year’s town report. They printed copies of the Sewer Department expense report and revenues for the year for Goodrow and others during the meeting.

Selectman Don Hutchins, reading from the town charter, said, “Sewer use charge rates shall be determined by the Board of Selectmen.”

“It looks to me like the selectmen have quite a lot of authority,” he said. “We can charge by water usage, (number) of toilets, how many people or how many bedrooms.”

In other business, the town will soon begin cutting down about a dozen dead trees on Staples Hill Road.

“There’s been some concern that the trees that are marked (for removal) are all on the right-hand side of the hill and none on the left,” Hutchins said.

Landowners have been asking whether the town will plant new trees, he said.

Selectman Carole Robbins offered to look for a discount for a bulk purchase of trees for the town and landowners.

“It’s an emotional attachment to their trees,” Robbins said.

In another matter, selectmen will meet with the Planning Board next week to discuss a proposal to advertise the sale of the Village Ridge properties for a minimum bid of $40,000 for four parcels off Edmunds Road and Route 140. Prospective buyers would also need a plan for developing the properties, selectmen said.

The Village Ridge development was established about 10 years ago to replace homes lost when the village flooded in 2003.

“We’ve got to negotiate this like we’re a company,” Hutchins said. “When they come in, they’re not going to dictate what we’re doing. We’re gonna have a negotiation and both parties are going to come out with their head up high.”

In other news, Selectman Carole Ferris said the town is planning a Trunk and Treat for children on Halloween evening at the town boat launch off Staples Hill Road. Last year, eight vehicles were decorated and “a lot of kids” came to collect candy, Ferris said.

A scarecrow decorating contest for residents, groups or committees is planned for the last two weeks of October, Ferris said. The scarecrow designs will be created in Heritage Park on Route 108 and a winner will be chosen by a town vote, she said.

Jolene Adley and Faith Hutchins were nominated to the town’s Parks and Trails Committee.

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Canton Selectman Carole Robbins, left, helps Administrative Assistant Tina Cagle display a Cub Scout flag donated to the town by former residents Tom and Kathleen Collins. Selectman Don Hutchins looks on. Rumford Falls Times photo by Marianne Hutchinson

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