A proposed sewage rate increase would help finance upgrades to Gardiner’s wastewater treatment plant and pay for the higher cost of treating the city’s wastewater. New rotating biological contacts were installed in July 2021 as part of the first phase of upgrades. Andy Molloy/Kennebec Journal file

GARDINER — The director of Gardiner’s wastewater treatment facility is asking the City Council to approve rate increases in sewer fees by 4% this year and 8% next year.

The increased fees are expected to help pay for both the higher cost of treating the city’s wastewater and the next phase of upgrades to the city’s sewer facilities.

“We just crafted our FY 23 budget, and I was able to come in to match (expenses to) our revenues,” Doug Clark, the wastewater director, said Tuesday.

Gardiner’s wastewater treatment department is operated as an enterprise fund, which means that it’s supported by the sewer fees it collects from users and is not supported by property tax revenue.

Over the past few years the department has used its fund balance to help pay the costs of operating the system, but it can’t continue to do that, Clark said. Now, he’s focused on replenishing the fund balance and having money to pay the increased prices he’s seeing for chemicals and parts due to the historic rate of inflation and shortages of critical components.

“The prices for some of the spare parts I need have doubled, if you can get them,” he said, noting that it’s now harder to find what he needs to keep the sewer treatment plant operating. “Nowadays, if you can get the thing in a reasonable amount of time, you don’t care how much you pay, but sometimes you can’t even get it at any price.”


The city is halfway through upgrades to the sewer treatment plant and system. In the first phase, the rotating biological contacts, which help break down the solids collected at the plant, were replaced with newer, more energy-efficient versions.

The next phase includes an upgrade to the Maine Avenue pump station’s motor control center, a new generator and a new computerized control system for the plant.

“I don’t want to wait and just do nothing,” Clark said.

Currently, Gardiner charges $101.78 per billing quarter, which includes a minimum usage of 1,200 cubic feet of flow. For every additional hundred cubic feet of flow, customers pay $11.68. On average a Gardiner sewer customer, with a usage of 1,500 cubic feet of flow, pays $136.82.

With a 4% increase, that would add about $6 to the average quarterly bill, bringing it to $142.30.

A little more than four years ago, Clark had proposed a series of increases to the sewer fees, which at that point had remained stable for a decade.


Clark was seeking increases of 9% in the first year, and 3% in each of the following two years to pay for some expected upgrades to the treatment plan and generators for the treatment on River Road and the Maine Avenue pump station.

The Gardiner City Council, seeking to spread out the impact of the increase, backed a proposal to instead raise the fees 4% annually for four years.

A public hearing and the first of two readings on the proposed increase is scheduled for Wednesday’s City Council meeting, which starts at 6 p.m. in the council chamber at Gardiner City Hall, located at 6 Church St.

Clark said any increase approved would go into effect in the next billing cycle, which is in August.

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