Marion Selectmen hike water, sewer rates to pay for related projects

May 27, 2020

MARION — Selectmen increased the water and sewer rates by $257.52 a year for an average household to begin paying off debt for a water main replacement and wastewater lagoon treatment project. 

Finance Director Judy Mooney told Selectmen at a May 26 meeting that the sewer rates were harder hit than the water rates in forming this year’s budget.

Mooney and members of the Department of Public Works also wanted an $100,000 surplus on the fund, and increased the rates 2.5% on the base, 2.5% on the first tier, 5% on the second tier and 10% on the third tier. 

For an average house (of 2.5 people), this would mean a water fee increase of $7.12 per quarter or $28.48 per year. 

Because the water enterprise fund does have some retained earnings, the town will use $300,000 to mitigate the rate increase, Selectman John Waterman said. 

The sewer enterprise fund presented more challenges, due in large part to a $7 million wastewater lagoon overhaul project that is mandated by the state. The town will start feeling its financial impacts this year, and will continue in fiscal year 2022. 

As a result, Selectmen will raise sewer rates 10% on the base rate, 20% on the first tier, 24% on the second tier, and 26% on the third tier. 

Selectman John Waterman brought up one restriction that didn’t make sense to him in the town’s system, since the water and sewer prices both decrease as water use increases. 

“We put water restrictions in place that limit watering, which is tying one arm behind our back,” he remarked. He asked if the town could undo that.  

Town Administrator Jay McGrail said if the town did that, it would have to get a higher water withdrawal permit with the Department of Environmental Protection. Otherwise, it could end up losing profit in fines. 

Selectmen agreed that as a long-term solution, they could improve the system by adding housing developments to the system. This would add more ratepayers and allow them to decrease the rates.