SKOWHEGAN — Sewer fees will continue to be paid by general taxation, as they have been for years, rather than switching to charging user fees, selectmen have determined.

Skowhegan is one of only three communities in Maine to use taxes to pay for the cost of operations at its pollution control plant and the debt service on the combined sewer overflow project, which separates stormwater from household waste to lighten the treatment load. Only Skowhegan, Old Orchard Beach and Mount Desert Island do it that way, Skowhegan Town Manager Christine Almand said.

In the rest of the state, sewer rates are paid by sewer system customers and are not part of the towns’ general taxation. Rates most often begin with a monthly flat rate plus fees based on usage.

The town of Hartland, for example, switched to sewer user fees in 2012. Debt service is not part of the fee. Everyone still pays debt service on building the waste treatment system in Hartland, Town Manager Chris Littlefield said.

User fees are collected for the Waterville Sewer District and the Kennebec Sanitary Treatment District with no municipal appropriations involved, Waterville City Manager Michael Roy said.

Almand said sewer fees have been part of recent workshop discussions on selectmen’s goals for the future, and they agreed to continue to pay them through taxation at the workshop last week.

“The Board of Selectmen is done with discussion on that for now,” Almand said of the sewer user fees. “They decided to keep it status quo. So anybody that has taxable property and they’re paying taxes are contributing to the sewer for everyone.”

There are about 1,500 sewer connections in Skowhegan and about 1,000 properties that are not connected, meaning roughly 60 percent of Skowhegan properties use the town sewer system. Many tax-exempt properties also use the sewer system, including Redington-Fairview General Hospital, county buildings, schools and state agencies.

Selectman Paul York, who volunteered to study the report on the sewer district and advise the rest of the board, said spreading the cost around makes more sense.

“At this point … we’re better off keeping it the way we are,” York said. “With our economic situation, we’re going to benefit more right now by keeping it the way it is versus going to user fees. Otherwise you’re putting another tax on somebody by putting in user fees. That wasn’t our goal and that wasn’t our intention to begin with.”

The operations and maintenance budget at the pollution control plant is about $551,000 a year, paid by taxation, plant supervisor Brent Dickey said. About $1.6 million in annual bond payments pay for the combined sewer overflow system. The project, which separates stormwater from the material to be treated at the pollution control plant, is mandated by the Maine Department of Environmental Protection.

Doug Harlow — 612-2367

[email protected]

Twitter:@Doug_Harlow


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