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CAPE ELIZABETH — Residents will have a chance to weigh in on a proposed 20.2 percent increase in sewer user fees to help pay for recent upgrades to the Southern Cape treatment facility on Spurwink Avenue, and to reduce overflow near the Ottawa Road pump station that serves the northern section of town and part of South Portland.
The Maine Department of Environmental Protection is requiring the town to reduce the amount of sewage overflow near the Ottawa Road pump station, but the town is giving residents an opportunity to voice their opinion about the resulting sewer rate increase at a public hearing on Monday, Feb. 13.
The minimum monthly rates would increase by about $3 per month from 2013 through 2015 and by $2 more per month in 2016.
Town Manager Mike McGovern sent out a memorandum to the Town Council on Dec. 30 explaining the sewer rate increase proposal and the history of sewer fees in Cape Elizabeth.
According to the memo, the proposed sewer rate increases are similar to a rate increase plan approved in 2008. The council reviewed sewer rates in 2008 when the treatment plant on Spurwink Avenue was undergoing renovations. At that time it was projected that in 2011 the town would need a 27 percent sewer rate increase, but instead of enacting the increase at one time, the council adopted a series of 4 percent increases each year for three years beginning Jan. 1, 2009.
Since the Ottawa Road Pump was licenced in 2009 by the DEP, and the license requires a mitigation plan to reduce the number and severity of combined sewer overflow releases, McGovern suggested it was a good time to consider how best to address the treatment plant’s ongoing improvements, the balance of the revenue requirement and the DEP requirement to curtail the combined sewer overflow.
In the memo, McGovern suggests most of the money will come from a $1.8 to $2 million, 15-year bond to be issued in 2014, and that $500,000 to $700,000 of the cost can funded with existing sewer-fund balances. The bond will also require $150,000 for annual amortization costs.
The council held a workshop on Wednesday, Jan. 11 to further discuss the proposed sewer fees with members of the Wright-Pierce engineering firm and the Portland Water District.
Council Chairwoman Sara Lennon said Tuesday that since the upgrade is required by the DEP, the council is not in a position to oppose the rate fee increase. She said the workshop was informative and the materials provided were “incredibly thorough.”
“The fact is storms are getting worse and worse and rainfall is increasing,” she said. “The amount of water is completely overwhelming the system, and it has to be addressed.”
McGovern said Tuesday that the council workshop was helpful and provided an opportunity for further discussion on the necessity of the project.
“We are trying to be responsible and are looking at long-term planning,” he said. “The council seems to be appreciative that we don’t have to revisit this (issue) every year, and we are planning ahead so as not to surprise anyone.”
The rate increase could take effect as soon as March 1, he said.
The council will hold a public hearing on the proposed sewer fees on Monday, Feb. 13 at 7 p.m. For more information on the proposed fees, visit the town website, capeelizabeth.com.