Sewer billing changes proposed in Bridgton

By Gail Geraghty

Staff Writer

Bridgton’s Wastewater Committee believes a recently completed feasibility study of current and future needs of the town’s sewer system is seriously flawed.

At the same time, the committee is asking Bridgton Selectmen to approve a new billing method for sewer users that would resolve the current disparity between how much capacity is allocated and how much is actually used.

Committee member Lucia Terry outlined the concerns about Woodard & Curran’s feasibility study at the selectmen’s Tuesday meeting. “We don’t think the study met the criteria” outlined in the town’s original request for proposals, she said, saying that three of the four tasks in the RFPs “haven’t been completed.”

Terry said data on land use and future buildout mapping is missing, as was minutes of earlier stakeholder meetings.

But perhaps the biggest flaw, she said, is that “the study is based on a magnitude error” that assumes the system’s two leach fields are near to reaching their capacity, when in fact that’s not the case. As a result, the study “is of little use to us as it stands.”

Selectmen said they needed time to absorb the committee’s report and concerns. Town Manager Mitch Berkowitz said he would forward the committee’s concerns to the consultant “right off the bat” so it can be resolved. Chuck Renneker suggested that the town withhold payment to the engineering firm until the matter is resolved, but Berkowitz said most of the payment has already been made. He did say that he could withhold the balance of the payment, however.

Committee member Glen “Bear” Zaidman then gave an overview of the procedural changes for assigning design flow value and billing. He cited a graph the committee prepared showing the town’s state-licensed limit of 30,000 gallons per day as compared to actual flows that total less than half that amount.

“We figure we can gain 40 to 45 percent (more) usage if we follow these rules,” Zaidman said.

The current Sewer Ordinance makes only a few mentions of any kind of procedure for assigning design flow or how it is to be billed.

In addition, “We learned that our system is not governed by Maine’s Department of Health and Human Services and does not fall under Subsurface Wastewater Disposal Rules, and therefore assigned design flows do not have to conform to the Maine State Plumbing Code.” Bridgton’s system is governed by the Department of Environmental Protection, and therefore design flows can be assigned using other accepted measures.

“The subsurface wastewater rules are about two-thirds inflated and they don’t allow for limited hours of operation,” said Zaidman.

Under the proposed billing changes, new applicants would be assigned a Design Flow Value based on Bridgton’s Wastewater Permit Schedule or how much water they used in another town, if such records are available. The Wastewater Superintendent would assign the user a permit for a design flow of a specified amount, and the user would then pay the first wastewater bill up front for the year.

After one year of operation, the user could ask for a review if, in fact, the anticipated usage didn’t pan out. The user can keep, and pay for, the originally-assigned design flow if it’s expected the business will grow into that amount of usage in time; or, the superintendent can reduce the user’s design flow to match up with reality. Thereafter, the amount becomes payable on a quarterly basis.

Existing users would have their previously-assigned design flows readjusted based on the spreadsheet of actual flows the committee created. The readjustment would require a personal contact with each user on the system, and might include a user’s plans for growth and/or their desire to pay for a design flow in excess of what they’re using currently.

Once that step is completed, Selectmen would adopt a schedule allowing for a return-of-fee to the user for any design flow fees paid in the last five years that are in excess of the new Design Flow Value. Then, the existing user would also be billed on a quarterly basis.

“We haven’t talked to the customers yet” about the proposed changes, Zaidman said.

In its proposal to the board, the committee said they “feel that these changes to the administration of the system are fair and will solve the critical problems we face. We recommend that this proposal be accepted and implemented.”SourceURL:file://localhost/Users/wayne/Desktop/website%20stories/NW%20g15%20wastewater%20committee.doc @font-face { font-family: "Times New Roman"; }@font-face { font-family: "Cambria"; }p.MsoNormal, li.MsoNormal, div.MsoNormal { margin: 0in 0in 0.0001pt; font-size: 10pt; font-family: Times; }table.MsoNormalTable { font-size: 10pt; font-family: "Times New Roman"; }div.Section1 { page: Section1; }

NW g15 wastewater committee

 

Sewer billing changes proposed in Bridgton

 

 

By Gail Geraghty

Staff Writer

Bridgton’s Wastewater Committee believes a recently completed feasibility study of current and future needs of the town’s sewer system is seriously flawed. At the same time, the committee is asking Bridgton Selectmen to approve a new billing method for sewer users that would resolve the current disparity between how much capacity is allocated and how much is actually used.

Committee member Lucia Terry outlined the concerns about Woodard & Curran’s feasibility study at the selectmen’s Tuesday meeting. “We don’t think the study met the criteria” outlined in the town’s original request for proposals, she said, saying that three of the four tasks in the RFPs “haven’t been completed.”

Terry said data on land use and future buildout mapping is missing, as was minutes of earlier stakeholder meetings.

But perhaps the biggest flaw, she said, is that “the study is based on a magnitude error” that assumes the system’s two leach fields are near to reaching their capacity, when in fact that’s not the case. As a result, the study “is of little use to us as it stands.”

Selectmen said they needed time to absorb the committee’s report and concerns. Town Manager Mitch Berkowitz said he would forward the committee’s concerns to the consultant “right off the bat” so it can be resolved. Chuck Renneker suggested that the town withhold payment to the engineering firm until the matter is resolved, but Berkowitz said most of the payment has already been made. He did say that he could withhold the balance of the payment, however.

Committee member Glen “Bear” Zaidman then gave an overview of the procedural changes for assigning design flow value and billing. He cited a graph the committee prepared showing the town’s state-licensed limit of 30,000 gallons per day as compared to actual flows that total less than half that amount.

“We figure we can gain 40 to 45 percent (more) usage if we follow these rules,” Zaidman said.

The current Sewer Ordinance makes only a few mentions of any kind of procedure for assigning design flow or how it is to be billed.

In addition, “We learned that our system is not governed by Maine’s Department of Health and Human Services and does not fall under Subsurface Wastewater Disposal Rules, and therefore assigned design flows do not have to conform to the Maine State Plumbing Code.” Bridgton’s system is governed by the Department of Environmental Protection, and therefore design flows can be assigned using other accepted measures.

“The subsurface wastewater rules are about two-thirds inflated and they don’t allow for limited hours of operation,” said Zaidman.

Under the proposed billing changes, new applicants would be assigned a Design Flow Value based on Bridgton’s Wastewater Permit Schedule or how much water they used in another town, if such records are available. The Wastewater Superintendent would assign the user a permit for a design flow of a specified amount, and the user would then pay the first wastewater bill up front for the year.

After one year of operation, the user could ask for a review if, in fact, the anticipated usage didn’t pan out. The user can keep, and pay for, the originally-assigned design flow if it’s expected the business will grow into that amount of usage in time; or, the superintendent can reduce the user’s design flow to match up with reality. Thereafter, the amount becomes payable on a quarterly basis.

Existing users would have their previously-assigned design flows readjusted based on the spreadsheet of actual flows the committee created. The readjustment would require a personal contact with each user on the system, and might include a user’s plans for growth and/or their desire to pay for a design flow in excess of what they’re using currently.

Once that step is completed, Selectmen would adopt a schedule allowing for a return-of-fee to the user for any design flow fees paid in the last five years that are in excess of the new Design Flow Value. Then, the existing user would also be billed on a quarterly basis.

“We haven’t talked to the customers yet” about the proposed changes, Zaidman said.

In its proposal to the board, the committee said they “feel that these changes to the administration of the system are fair and will solve the critical problems we face. We recommend that this proposal be accepted and implemented.”

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