FARMINGTON — Selectmen on Tuesday approved the 2018 Sewer Department budget and a sewer rate increase.

The budget of $968,043 is $13,205 less than last year’s.

Department head Stephen Millett said one project to be undertaken this year is a 147-foot section on Perham Street where a 10-inch line overheated and bubbled up on the inside.

“No one knows what caused it,” he said. “It’s never been seen. It needs to be fixed.”

The section will be repaired after school closes. Ted Berry Co., of Livermore, will use trenchless technology. A 5-foot section of road will be dug up to get a piece of the pipe to try to determine the cause.

“It will cost more than $17,000,” Millett said. “That is much less than digging the whole line up would be.”

Sewer Department administrative clerk Mavis Gensel said the rates need to increase because the department lost about $20,000 last year and accounts receivable are down to about $22,000.

Sewer rates are based on water use, and low-flow faucets and toilets are reducing use.

“Conservation is costing us money,” Gensel said.

She gave quarterly charges for some district towns:

• Jay’s minimum is $78.75 for 800 cubic feet.

• Wilton’s minimum is $172.12 for 1,200 cubic feet, and $122 for buildings where the water is turned off.

• Rangeley’s minimum is $100, plus $7.50 per 100 cubic feet.

• Farmington’s new minimum quarterly rate is $39.90 for 500 cubic feet, and $7.98 per 100 cubic feet. The previous rate was $36.43 for 500 cubic feet and $7.285 per 100 cubic feet.

In other business, Aaron Svedlow, of NextEra Energy, gave an update on the Farmington Solar Project, a nearly $100 million development on 600 acres at Sandy River Farms on U.S. Route 2 and on surrounding acreage in the vicinity of Hovey, Horn Hill, Bailey Hill and Davis roads.

Collection lines and a substation are planned to connect the project to the electric grid at the Central Maine Power Co. Sturtevant Station on U.S. Route 2. The photovoltaic panels would cover about 320 acres.

The solar project is being developed by NextEra Energy, of Juno Beach, Florida, the world’s largest utility company, according to its website.

Svedlow said the panels off Bailey Hill Road were removed to address concerns about how the project might look.

“We were able to accommodate the full target of 75 megawatts,” he said.

Landscaping, particularly for the Stanwood Park area, also has been added to break up the visual effect of the project. Much of the project is concentrated behind Sandy River Farms on private land.

“There will be minimal impact,” Svedlow said.

He said developers expect to file an application for the project with the Department of Environmental Protection by early May. It will be filed with the Farmington Planning Board about six weeks later.

Svedlow said DEP approval should come by fall, with construction occurring in 2019 into 2020.

NextEra has filed similar applications for solar projects in Clinton, Fairfield and Sanford with the DEP.

“We’ve had really good feedback from the state on the stormwater and general design of these projects,” Svedlow said.

“Especially since these are the first of these projects in the state,” NextEra’s Liz Peyton said.

Svedlow said a number of maintenance jobs would be required, including mowing, weed-whacking, snowplowing and electrical work.

Sandy River Farms owner Bussie York said, “This is a windfall for Farmington. It’s an opportunity to increase the tax base without stressing the town’s infrastructure.”

A copy of the map will be posted soon to the town’s website,

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