Sewer ratepayer survey mailed out

By Gail Geraghty

Staff Writer

Letters are being sent to all 72 of Bridgton’s sewer users in an effort to create a new flow model for sewer fees that everyone can live with. Voters rejected updates to the sewer ordinance last month in part over unanswered questions about a proposed new equivalent user model to replace the current outdated individual subsurface model.

“It is a matter of utmost importance, in my opinion,” Town Manager Bob Peabody told Bridgton Selectmen Tuesday, when member Bob McHatton noted that their approval that night of an additional 660-gallon allocation for the Main Street Variety property effectively used up all of the available sewer allocation under the old model.

The mailing includes a questionnaire seeking details on how each property is being used, so that the Wastewater Committee can assign an accurate flow rate under the equivalent user model. Those wishing to talk to the committee in person are given a choice of four dates in February when they meet with them to explain their situation and learn about the new model in more detail.

The failed ordinance revisions relied only on estimates from engineers and not on the actual uses being made of each property.

“(The engineers) walked by and looked at the building and assigned an equivalent user number to it, and it became a big bone of contention during the vote on the ordinance,” Peabody said.

The intent of the revisions, Peabody has stressed, was to free up capacity in the current system, and not to affect or restrict what the owners are able to do with their properties.

“As an example, a single-family house with three bedrooms requires an allocation of 270 gallons per day now, but would need 160 gallons per day under the equivalent user model, effectively freeing 110 gallons per day,” Peabody wrote in the letter, dated Wednesday. That extra capacity, he said, then becomes “available for future use, opening up the possibility for more economic development. Economic development means jobs, an expanded tax base, increased tourist dollars and opportunities.”

Peabody and selectmen have freely admitted they didn’t do a good job explaining the need for the town to adopt a new municipally-based flow model the first time around, and intend to present the changes to voters again this June, after changes are made by a newly-revamped Wastewater Committee.

Committee Chairman Glen “Bear” Zaidman explained that a single-family home would be one equivalent user, a four-apartment building would be four equivalent users, and a nine-apartment complex would be nine equivalent users. Other factors are used in assigning a number for types of businesses, such as the number of meals per day served by restaurants or the number of employees at a retail business.

The committee is meeting tonight, Jan. 14, at 6 p.m. in the lower conference room, and invites any interested sewer users to come learn about the new system for assigning flow rates.

In a related matter, McHatton said the town’s attorney has advised the board that they, as Wastewater Commissioners, now have the right under the current rules to buy back any additional allocation purchased by sewer users in the past. He recommended, and the board agreed, that Peabody start the procedure for buying back any additional gallons that users are willing to sell.

Peabody, who is currently busy putting together the budget, said he hasn’t had time to research the issue, and could not provide an estimate of how much allocation might be freed up under a buy-back scenario. He said he would be looking into it as his schedule allows, and the matter can then come up at a future meeting.

 

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