Cumberland enacts 2% rate increase for sewer users

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CUMBERLAND — The Town Council on Monday unanimously approved a 2 percent increase in the sewer user fee, which could raise the average monthly fee by $1.38 to $70.04.

The council also issued senior tax assistance payments and postponed to Sept. 10 the swearing in of the town’s newest police officer.

That 2 percent increase, which takes effect next month, is due in part to additional maintenance needed on the existing system, as well as planned upgrades to Falmouth’s treatment plant, Cumberland Town Manager Bill Shane said before Monday’s meeting.

Both towns use the plant. The upgrades concern rainwater events, as well as aeration and clarifier capacities at the plant. The projects are in Falmouth’s capital improvement plan, which could be addressed in the next few years, Shane said.

“We’re just planning ahead so that we don’t have a big spike in the next four years with another bond that might go out,” he explained. “We’re responsible for 30 percent of that treatment plant, and when Falmouth proposes a project, it’s collaborated well.”

“We’ve had a reprieve for the last few years,” Shane added, noting that Cumberland’s sewer rate was flat last year.

Cumberland’s assessment for the pump station work is still being determined, he said. The overall project could cost between $3 million and $5 million.

The town sewer system has about 1,200 users that pay into the system – about 25-30 percent of Cumberland’s population, Shane said. Property taxes do not go toward the system, he added.

“Only about 25 percent of the town of Cumberland is paying for that sewer system,” he added. “In Falmouth, the whole town pays for it, so it does make a difference, the more users you have.”

“I feel like I’m being punished,” Dottie Spaulding of Greely Road told the council. “I’m in the minority, being on the sewer, and it goes up every single year.”

Cumberland’s is the second-highest user fee in Cumberland County, “primarily because we have such a small amount of users,” Shane noted, pointing out that the town’s capacity is limited.

When the system was created, “instead of sewering the majority of the town, (Cumberland) basically jumped around town to where the problem areas were,” he said, estimating that it would have been “at least 30 percent less costly had we done a better and a more comprehensive sewer project back in the ’80s than we have today.”

Tax breaks, swearing in

The council also unanimously issued senior property tax assistance payments, the latest annual round in a program begun in 2016. More than 150 applicants will receive rebates, and the town is issuing more than $75,000 in checks.

Rebates range from about $100 to $750, with an average of about $500, Shane said. About $45,000 is left in the program’s account and will roll over to next year’s payments.

“People were very, very grateful,” Shane said.

The swearing in of Officer Jake LaChance had to be rescheduled because he was on call.

LaChance, who served four years with the South Portland Police Department, fills the vacancy created when Officer John Dalbec left in June to join the Sabattus Police Department.

LaChance’s swearing-in ceremony is now scheduled for Sept. 10.

Alex Lear can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 113 or Follow him on Twitter: @learics.

A Maine native and Colby College graduate, Alex has been covering coastal communities since 2001, and currently handles Bath, Topsham, Cumberland, and North Yarmouth. He and his wife, Lauren, live in the Portland area, and Alex recently released his third album of original music.