Brunswick-Topsham Water District pushes 13% rate hike
Utility faces $210K financial loss
TOPSHAM — The Brunswick and Topsham Water District has filed for new rate schedules that could result in an average 13 percent increase for its customers.
The district recently notified the Maine Public Utilities Commission of its intentions. If approved by the PUC, the new rates would go into effect May 1.
The increase of 13 percent, or more than $401,000, is an average. Commercial and industrial customers will pay even more, between 18 and 19 percent, respectively.
Private fire protection rates will increase more than 17 percent. Residents will see an increase of just less than 13 percent.
The town of Brunswick, which is expected to begin budget deliberations, estimates that the new rates will require a $75,000 increase in spending.
In recent letter to customers, district General Manager Alan Frasier attributed the increase to the recent issuance of bonds for capital improvement projects and land purchases.
In 2008, the district borrowed $1.75 million to replace the water main on River Road in Brunswick. It borrowed $350,000 in 2007 to purchase land for groundwater protection.
Frasier also said that the winding down of Brunswick Naval Air Station led to a loss of revenue.
All told, Frasier said, the district will lose $210,000 this year without the rate increase.
The district argued for the rate change in a notice posted on its Web site. It said other state public water systems charged rates an average of 61 percent higher than the Brunswick and Topsham Water District.
The district's new rate schedule was several months in the making. Its Board of Trustees initiated a study of fees and expenses last fall. Since then, Fraiser said, national economic conditions have worsened.
"We understand that this is not the most favorable time for our customers to see even small increases in their bills," he wrote. "Nevertheless, this increase is necessary. We must continue to meet our financial obligations."
The district will further make its case for the rate hikes when it holds a public hearing on Tuesday, March 17, at the district office, 266 River Road, Topsham.