BETHEL — Bethel selectmen, on Monday, approved increases in quarterly rates for customers of the Waste Water Treatment Plant, to take effect Jan. 1.

The unanimous vote followed a public hearing that was attended by about a dozen people.

Currently, a minimum quarterly charge of $159 is assessed based on a minimum volume of 1,500 cubic feet of water, regardless of actual metered water usage below that volume. A .106 rate per cubic foot of metered water usage is assessed for usage over 1,500 cubic feet.

With the increased approved Monday, the minimum charge will not exceed $190. A rate of .16 will be charged above 1,500.

Rates have remained the same for three years, but the WWTP is now facing a revenue shortfall that will require the increase in order to fund the system, according to town officials. The plant needs $708,693 in revenue receipts for 2020, town officials said. Total revenues receipts for 2019 were $534,453.

Selectmen have also discussed for the future proposing to share the costs of capital improvement sewer projects among all town taxpayers, not just users.  Such improvements must by ordinance be approved by a vote of the entire town.

Another issue the town is dealing with is the definition of a dwelling unit, as officials have sought in recent years to charge all multi-unit apartment buildings separately by unit rather than as one building. Currently some are charged as one while others are charged by the individual unit.

At Monday’s hearing, many of the people weighing in had a business or other large user connection. Some said that with the increase in both the base fee and overage of fee charges, those using a lot of water are getting what translates to a 52 percent rate increase, while most single-family homes using the minimum are getting a 19 percent increase.  They said that puts an unfair burden on larger businesses, as well as Gould Academy, which uses a lot of water in dormitories.

But Selectboard Chairman Peter Southam said that in considering the fee increases, the board had learned that many single-family home users use less than 500 cubic feet of water per quarter, and therefore they pay more proportionally through the base fee.  “We tried to find some average in the usage pool,” he said.

Resident Mark Bennett said he thought it was fair for those who use more water to pay more.  He also said costs should be shared by the whole town, since the whole town votes for sewer improvement projects.

Southam also noted that with the population density of Bethel Village, the WWTP “allows us to have the village here.”

The hearing concluded after half an hour, but the discussion continued under a request from the Cameron House to change from an individually-charged condominium unit structure to a one-metered apartment building.  The Cameron House formally changed to apartments, and owner Patricia Thurston has communicated to the town that because other apartment buildings currently have only one charge, Cameron should be able to have the same, at least until the town is able to consistently charge all apartment units separately.

WWTP Superintendent Rick Davis said there are about 120 more apartment units that were supposed to go to a town sewer committee for consideration of individual charging until voters rejected a proposed new dwelling unit definition three years ago that would have provided the basis for categorizing them.

A motion by Selectman Lori Swain to deny the Cameron request was met with a tie vote, so it failed. Selectmen then tabled the issue until their next meeting, hoping for full board attendance in order to break the tie.

Comments are not available on this story.

filed under: