GARDINER — City officials are expecting that a proposal to change the way sewer rates are charged in Gardiner could attract droves of people to a public hearing Wednesday.

Staff say they have heard from several property owners who received letters last month with illustrations comparing their current charges to those anticipated under the proposed structure.

City Manager Scott Morelli said arrangements have been made to clear out one of the Gardiner Fire Department bays to allow for overflow seating at the public hearing. Audio will be streamed in and people sitting there will have a chance to present their views to city councilors as well, he said.

The public hearing, hosted by the City Council, is scheduled to begin at 7 p.m. in council chambers.

Morelli said the current structure for sewer charges was adopted 10 years ago and is based on equivalent user rating.

“You pay for what you use as well as capacity,” he said. “If they have a single-family house and lot of users, they’re paying on small single-family rather than high-use household.”

After a 15-month study, the new model recommended by a stakeholders group, a consultant, and the Wastewater Advisory Board bases charges on a minimum bill in addition to actual usage, according to Chuck Applebee, the city’s wastewater and public works director.

The minimum charge would be $87 per quarter, and anything more than 1,200 cubic feet incurs an additional charge.

Morelli said the restructuring of charges is not designed to bring in additional money, but rather to reapportion charges. “It takes away costs from those who potentially could use a lot and shifts it to those who do use a lot,” Morelli said.

“If the city council enacts this, there will be some who will pay more and some who will pay less,” Applebee said. Regardless of how rates are structured, “we need to raise the same amount of revenue,” he added.

The operating budget of the Gardiner Wastewater Treatment Plant is about $1.4 million.

About 1,470 properties in Gardiner are connected to the wastewater treatment system. There are additional users in Farmingdale and Randolph. The towns are billed for treatment and any common facilities and each town then bills its own residents.

The study considered three basic ways of billing: a flat rate, rates based on usage, equivalent user system, or a combination of the three.

“It’s up to the community to decide which combination or variation they choose to use for sewer rates,” Applebee said. “The city council is deciding which rate system would be the most fair for Gardiner sewer users.”

Betty Adams — 621-5631

[email protected]