RUMFORD — The town has scheduled public hearings on Sept. 7 and Sept. 21 to discuss a planned sewer rate method change.
The 5:30 p.m. hearings will take place in the Rumford Falls Auditorium at the Town Hall just prior to the regular Select Board meetings, according to Town Manager Stacy Carter, noting that the town is looking to set the rate based on water usage.
Last February, the Select Board was presented with a town assessment from the Rumford-Mexico Sewer District that increased by $334,888 or 38.3%, to $1,093,828. Based on that, the per unit sewer assessment increased to $490, which is still below the state average for municipal sewer assessment is $500 per unit.
There are 3,065 units in Rumford.
A primary reason for the increase, according to Sewer District Supt. Roland Arsenault, is that the Rumford Mexico Sewerage District is now required to have their sludge hauled out of town.
The change is due primarily to a new statute (LD 1911) related to PFAS contamination prohibiting the application or spreading of sludge, any compost material that included sludge or septage in its production, and any other product or material derived from or containing sludge or septage.
Carter said, “I expect that the assessment that we get from the sewer district for next year is going to be still higher again. Last year was like a 38 percent hike. It won’t be nearly as much of a rate increase.
He added that Supt. Arsenault doesn’t expect it to be as high, “but we can expect it to be like 25 percent, which is still going to be considerable.”
Carter said, “We have a lot of our own infrastructure needs as far as pump stations, piping, manholes, etc. that we need to address, ongoing because our system has really aged, with the exception of the downtown. We have to make sure that our capital and reserve funds will enable us to get some if that work done.”
He noted, “What we hope to achieve is fairness because there’s people that pay the same unit rate that use very little water, therefore contributing very little sewerage and they’re paying the same as somebody that uses a lot of water and contributes a lot of sewerage.”
Carter said most towns have gone to this water usage model so that it is fair.
He has corresponded with two of the Rumford’s largest industrial users — the Nine Dragons Mill and the Rumford Power Plant.
“The one thing we’re going to do is require Nine Dragons to put in a flow meter. To get the most accurate information as far as sewer usage, we’re going to require a flow meter on their sewer discharge,” said Carter, adding he believes the mill is installing a flow meter during this shutdown period.
He said Rumford Power already has a flow meter.
“Regardless, they’re going to see a pretty hefty increase because of the high volume,” said Carter.
He said sewer rates are set in February of each year. “We’re hoping to have enough information to be able to set the rate the beginning of February with that new method.”
Carter said, “The other thing that’s going to be different is that we’re talking about a quarterly bill instead of semi-annual. That’s for discussion as well. That, I think, will make it easier. The data we get is from the water district, and they do it quarterly. That may assist sewer rate users. They’re not paying such a big chunk all at once. They pay it in four installments instead of two.”
He said they do have some ordinance changes coming up in November to help facilitate changing the sewer rate method model over.

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