FREEPORT — The sewer rate is expected to increase by 4 percent over the next year, which is 1 percent higher than the average increase.
The Sewer District Board of Trustees is holding a public hearing Oct. 17 to discuss increasing the rate by 4 percent in both 2017 and 2018. For the past six years, the rate has increased by 3 percent each year.
The public hearing, followed by a vote, will take place at 6 p.m. at the sewer district office at 43 South Freeport Road.
According to Sewer District General Manager Lee Arris, the proposed increase is due to a $3.2 million infrastructure improvement project now in the planning stages. The project is being funded by a $1.1 million grant and a $2.1 million loan, both from the United States Department of Agriculture’s Rural Development and Waste Disposal program.
Arris said the sewer district applied for the grant last year and received the funds in February. Since then, work has been done on developing plans and designs and doing research. Construction will begin in the spring and is expected to take 18 months to complete.
“We’ve had some issues with deteriorating pipes,” Arris said. “We’re going to abandon over half a mile of old clay pipe that’s been breaking down.”
The project will include removing old pipes and laying new pipe to redirect sewage flow. A new pump station will be built behind the Bow Street Market; the pump stations at Mast Landing and Porter Landing will be refurbished.
Arris said the project also addresses environmental concerns and will keep the Harraseeket River clean.
“This project is designed to protect the Frost Gully watershed,” he said.
According to Arris, the sewer district will pay back $84,000 per year on the loan for 40 years starting in 2019. At that time, a loan the district took out in the early ’90s will be retired.
The loan from the ’90s was also for infrastructure improvements, but the new project is much bigger, Arris said. The sewer district was paying $72,000 a year on the previous loan and the 1 percent increase on the sewer rate will make up the $12,000 difference on the loan payments.
Arris said the 950 accounts in the sewer district pay a base of $40.08 per year plus an additional $8.06 for every 100 cubic feet – 747 gallons – of water used by customers.
If the rate increase is approved on Oct. 16, the 2017 base rate will increase to $41.68 and the water rate will go up to $8.38 for every 100 cubic feet. In 2018, it would be $43.35 for the base and $8.72 for every 100 cubic feet of water.
“We’ve been averaging over the last six years (a sewer rate increase of) about 3 percent, so this is a little but higher than the average,” Arris said.