Jared Mosher with the Kennebec Water District operates a compactor Monday as he fills a hole during work in front of a home on Burrill Street in Fairfield. The water district is pursuing an 8% increase in water rates this year and another 8% increase next year. Part of the money from the rate increase would go toward replacing aging infrastructure. Rich Abrahamson/Morning Sentinel

WATERVILLE — Kennebec Water District customers can expect to see an 8% increase in their water bills starting July 1 and another 8% hike the following July to help fund the replacement of aging infrastructure, increased maintenance costs and construction of a new business and operations center.

The monthly rate increase will be $1.80 a month for this year and $1.95 per month starting July 1, 2023, which is expected to generate about $438,074 for this year and $473,121 the next. The current rates, which depend on the size of the meter, have been in effect since 2018. A hospital or shopping mall, for instance, has a larger meter than a single-family home.

Kennebec Water District supplies water from China Lake to about 9,000 residential and commercial customers in Waterville, Winslow, Fairfield, Benton and parts of Vassalboro, through about 172 miles of pipe. The town of Oakland also buys water wholesale from the district.

KWD’s general manager, Roger Crouse, said Monday that the average single-family home with a 5/8-inch meter pays just under $90 a quarter for water. More than half of KWD customers have that size meter, Crouse said.

“We bill quarterly,” he said. “The typical family home is paying $30 a month for water, and they’ll be at roughly $32 a month on July 1, 2022, and $35 a month on July 1, 2023. It’ll be about $5 more a month for water service at the end of this rate increase.”

Ryan Adams, left, and Jared Mosher with the Kennebec Water District watch Monday as dirt is dumped into a hole as part of work the water district completed in front of a home on Burrill Street in Fairfield. The water district is pursuing an 8% increase in water rates this year and another 8% increase next year. Part of the money from the rate increase would go toward replacing aging infrastructure. Rich Abrahamson/Morning Sentinel

A public hearing on the increase will be held at 7 p.m. May 18 in the community center at 61 Water St. in Fairfield. The meeting also may be accessed remotely at https://vimeo.com/698996576 and on the local Spectrum channel 1301.

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KWD customers should expect to receive notices in the mail this week notifying them of the rate increase and public hearing, according to Crouse.

“Rising operating costs and needed critical infrastructure investments have made these proposed rate increases essential to continue reliably supplying safe drinking water,” the notice says. Material supporting the proposed rate increases may be viewed at kennebecwater.0rg/rates or at KWD’s office at 6 Cool St. in Waterville.

Crouse said the delivery of high-quality water to customers 24 hours a day, 365 days a year requires a continuing investment that comes at a cost, and the water district is not immune to cost increases.

Asked if the problem with PFAS in any way affects KWD or its increase, Crouse said it does not. He said the expansion of water pipe in Fairfield has not been decided — there is a question on the June ballot for Fairfield residents asking if they want to support such an expansion. Fairfield officials are proposing an expanded water system to help those with wells contaminated by PFAS, also known as “forever chemicals.”

Employees of the Kennebec Water District work Monday in front of a home on Burrill Street in Fairfield. The water district is pursuing an 8% increase in water rates this year and another 8% increase next year. Money raised from the rate hike will go toward replacing aging infrastructure, covering increased maintenance costs and the construction of a new business and operations center in Waterville. Rich Abrahamson/Morning Sentinel

“It’s a possibility, but if there is an expansion someone else other than current ratepayers would pay for that expansion,” Crouse said. “It’s not, in any way, related to our rate increase and if they vote for it, there are still a lot of things to fall into place for an actual expansion to occur.”

The Waterville Planning Board on Jan. 12 voted unanimously to approve plans for a $15.8 million KWD complex on 15.5 acres on Drummond Avenue to house what is now the water district’s business office on Cool Street and the operations center on South Street. The water district plans to sell the Cool Street site and will maintain a presence on South Street indefinitely, according to Crouse.

Plans call for constructing a 20,000-square-foot business and operations center, 8,000-square-foot building to house gravel and other materials, and a 15,000-square-foot exterior space for pipe and yard materials storage. A parking lot with 43 spaces would be for employees, visitors and members of the water district’s board of trustees. The total developed area would be 10.88 acres. The water district has been at its current site for nearly 145 years.

Crouse said Monday that the water district is awaiting a final permit from the state Department of Environmental Protection for the project and that permit is expected by the end of the month, so construction can start June 1. The new complex is expected to open in September 2023, according to Crouse.

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