FARMINGTON — Sewer rates can not be set because the sewer budget must be approved first and Selectmen were not able to do that Tuesday, April 26.

The 2022 sewer budget as proposed by Waller is almost $1.18 million, an 11.78% increase over the current plan. The budget submitted by department head Stephen Millett was $1,300 less. Waller’s budget added $300 for water and $1,000 for computer equipment.

The proposed budget includes $130,115 more for personnel services, an almost 35.4% increase over the current budget.

Selectmen Scott Landry and Matthew Smith supported the proposed budget, Selectmen Joshua Bell and Byron Staples opposed it, and Selectman Stephan Bunker was absent.

“We need the budget approved to set the rate,” Town Manager Christian Waller said. The Maine Municipal Association states that, he noted.

At the last meeting Selectmen tabled approval of the town’s sewer budget and usage rates to give time for new Selectperson Staples to review the figures. Staples had wanted to delay a decision until after the May 9 Town Meeting when budgets for other departments will be voted on.


At the last meeting Millett said the proposed budget would not cause usage rates to change.

The usage rate approved in 2020 and 2021 was $39.90 per 500 cubic feet, with an additional $7.98 per 100 cubic feet thereafter.

That is about one penny per gallon for every cubic foot, sewer administrative clerk Mavis Gensel said Tuesday.

Waller said everything is costing more money with Covid.

Gensel said the schools and college were not in session, hospital usage went way down because of the pandemic, which put the department about $70,000 in the hole. Apartment usage was also down, she noted. At the last meeting Gensel said that loss would be covered by moneys in the reserve account.

“We lose about half when the university closes, 3,000 (people) are not using facilities,” Millett said.


Sewer bills generally go out the end of March, June, October and December, Gensel said. Liens are done two times a year, she noted.

Millett said a new $10 per ton disposal fee will be tallied throughout the year and tonnage billed at the end of the year. That was factored in the budget, he noted.

The figure for retirement seems high, Staples said.

“If somebody comes on board, we have to offer it, have to make sure the money is there just like for insurance,” Gensel said.

Bell referenced the amount the town pays for employees’ insurance.

Farmington employees pay a lot more towards insurance than any place around here, Gensel said. People with families are paying $900 per month, she noted.


“That is why you are losing employees,” Gensel added.

Franklin County is the third poorest county in Maine, Bell noted.

The proposed increase for employee compensation was the elephant in the room for Bell. He supported spreading the increase over a few years. He noted those on social security and in the private sector don’t get cost of living adjustments that those employed by schools, municipalities and the state do. Bell felt it was awkward discussing pay with employees present.

Having the employees there was not awkward for Smith. “Every number on this page is somebody,” he said.

If the number of years since employees had received a raise were considered, it would average out to 1.5% a year, Waller said.

“Things are different, we are doing more,” Gensel said.


“I want to stay here, retire here,” Sewer Department Operator III Joseph Hartigan said. “We need to be compensated. It’s not a frivolous jump, it is just compensation.

“Every year our responsibility grows so where’s the justification for that,” he asked. The page and a half job description can be summed up in one sentence, ‘You need to be able to do everything,’ he said.

“We have saved this town hundreds of thousands of dollars working with contractors, stopping them from overcharging the town,” Hartigan said.

Staples wanted to have the Town Meeting vote for reference, see what the voters do and go from there. The Town Meeting is 7 p.m. May 9 in the Mt. Blue High School gymnasium.

“It is not the same,” Hartigan said. “Any other department, you don’t need the skill set needed (for sewer). You can’t compare.”

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