DIXFIELD — When the Select Board meets Monday, they will likely set a date for a public meeting regarding a large sewer rate increase.
At the Nov. 28 meeting, Town auditor Ron Smith, RHR Smith told the board, “The sewer rate today is what it should have been back in 2011. Through the last 10 years, there was some debt that was incurred, and some projects that were proposed to upgrade and maintain your wastewater that got deferred.”
He said that in 2021, “with all that considered, you went from a break-even point to almost a $900,000 deficit.”
Smith said, “here is no money to upgrade the system, you’re using monies from water rates to leverage wastewater, and money is owed to the town — none of which improved over the last 10 years.”
He said “We need to do something now because we expect that deficit to grow to over a million bucks this year. Our hole’s getting deeper, and it’s getting deeper at the sacrifice of your other utility department. Whatever the math is, start now. Even doing it over the next three years still, you’ve got to start someplace.”
Selectman Norman Mitchell asked what that means in dollars.
Smith responded, “Easy math. (Base rate) Seventy dollars up to $140 (per quarter) over the next three years.”
He added the town could add a fourth year to this rate increase, which would likely be around $150 per quarter at the end of four years.
Smith recommended for the first year of increasing the quarterly rate from $70 to $93 for 2023 for the 551 users of the sewer system. He is shooting for this increase to begin during the first quarter of 2023.
Mitchell asked if the result was going to put Dixfield “outrageously higher” than any other town.
Smith said it would not.
Smith said somewhere during year two, “you’re going to start to see that million dollar deficit go down, and every year after that…This has been 15 to 20 years in the making, and for 10 years we’ve been talking about it.”
Selectman Peter Holman said, “It’s not going to be a popular thing, but it’s got to be done.”
Fire Chief Scott Dennett asked, “So if you do that over a four-year period, at the end of four years, are you at a point where revenues are going to start allowing for accumulation of capital for future maintenance?”
Smith responded, “I think in year two or three, you’ll start seeing that.”
Back on July 25, citizens approved a capital project to renovate the 42-year-old waste pump station on Hall Hill Road. People voted to also accept and authorize the use of 80 percent grant funding, noted to exceed $536,620.
The station pumps waste to the Rumford wastewater treatment plant on the River Road in Mexico.
Town Manager Alicia Conn said very little maintenance has been done on the station, which was designed to last 20 years. Most of the equipment is original and finding parts is difficult.
“We’re hoping to be able to secure 80% grant funding, either from Congressman (Jared) Golden’s Community Project Funding or Northern Borders Regional Grant Funding,” she said.
Golden, a Lewiston Democrat, visited the station June 30.
Conn said if the town gets nothing from those grants, then they will have to apply for the next round of grant funding.
Shawn Ready, regional vice president for Vortex, contracted by Dixfield to maintain and monitor sewer system operations, said if the system should fail, they would become the pipeline, pumping the sewerage into transport vehicles and “hauling to the Mexico sewerage facility continuously until whatever repairs are made. The expense of transport costs would be between $10,000 and $15,000 every 24 hours.”
Board of Selectmen Chairman Richard Pickett said the project is contingent on receiving federal money.
“Without it, we’re just not in a position to do it,” he said.
Should the town receive the federal grant, the remaining 20%, or $109,000, would be financed by a local bank or the Maine Bond Bank and repaid by the system’s 551 users, Conn said.

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