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Sewer rate up 90 cents effective this month

GREENVILLE — Greenville residents will be seeing their sewer bills this year by almost $1 per 1,000 gallons used, as the Select Board has agreed to raise the rate on sewer usage.

The jump follows an even greater increase in the sewer rate last year. For a long stretch before that, though, the board told residents during a public hearing on the issue Wednesday, the board had kept the sewer rate static for several years, leaving the town’s sewer accounts often in the red. The board expects to see more increases over the next several years while trying to settle the accounts, the board said.

In September 2012, the board voted to increase the sewer rate by $2.50, a more than 19 percent increase over the previous year. This year another increase was called for, the board said, although not as steep an increase as last year.

On Wednesday, the board voted to increase the sewer rate from $15.60 per 1,000 gallons to $16.50 per 1,000, a 90 cent increase. The new rate will be effective with the October 2013 billing.

Water rates, they voted, will remain the same at $6.50 per 1,000 gallons.

Greenville Estates is 17 years into a 50-year contract with the town that uses a mathematical formula to calculate the sewer rate for the senior housing development , which is lower than the town rate. In 2011, for example, Greenville Estates was paying a rate of $5.91 per 1,000 gallons, while the rest of the town was paying $13.10, according to meeting minutes from Sept. 12, 2012. As of June 2012, Greenville Estates was paying a rate of $4.77 per 1,000 gallons, while the town rate was $15.60, according to meeting minutes from June 27, 2012. Pilgrim Foods, a mustard and vinegar manufacturer in Greenville, is also subject to a different rate, calculated by a different mathematical formula that takes into account flow, total suspended solids and biological oxygen demand.

Raising the sewer rate $1 for the public in general will generate approximately $20,000 in revenue annually for the Sewer Department, according to Greenville meeting minutes from September 2012.

One of the reasons for the increased rate the past two years is that prior to 2009 the sewer rates were not raised for many years, despite the sewer fund operating in the red for at least three years in a row. The Select Board made the decision to borrow from the unexpended fund balance to balance the accounts. In 2011, the sewer fund owed the town $115,000. As of 2013, that number has decreased to $112,000, after raising the rates in 2012.

At Wednesday’s meeting, resident Marshall Buttrick asked if the updated sewer rate would be enough to cover the operating costs this year. The board answered that it would. The Wastewater Department budget for 2013 was approved at 288,069 at the March Town Meeting.

The board noted that it raised the rates with reluctance. “I hate to do it,” said Select Board Chair Brenda Bergeron. “It breaks my heart.”

Select Board member Doug Reardon said the rate raise was essential to keep operating the sewer fund in the black.

Ashley Saari can be reached at 924-7172 ext. 244 or asaari@ledgertranscript.com. She’s on Twitter at @AshleySaari.

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