Water and Sewer budgets pass

Water and Sewer budgets approved
By Lars Trodson
The fiscal year 2019 budgets for the Water and Sewer Companies were quickly approved by a show of hands at the annual Financial Meeting that was held on Monday, June 18 at Town Hall.
The budgets are approved by customers of each company; a minimum of seven customers are required to make a quorum for a vote to take place. Eleven voters were present for the Sewer Company vote, while nine showed up for the Water Company budget vote.
The Water Company’s operating budget for 2019 will be $809,810. Voters approved an across-the-board increase of five percent to usage fees and customer charges in order to offset the cost of a future water main replacement. 
The Sewer Company’s approved budget for 2019 will be $1,416,091. The budget includes a 2.5 percent increase in user fees, which will be set aside for expected capital improvement projects in the future. 
The Sewer budget, unlike the Water company budget, was not approved with a unanimous vote. There were two nay votes.
“There is no reason to increase the sewer rates,” said customer Janet Ziegler, who voted against it. “You don’t raise rates for a non-profit. The Finance Department recommended no increase, and the Superintendent recommended no increase.”
Superintendent Chris Blane had, at previous meetings, advocated for no rate increases. Sewer Commission Chair Pete McNerney had pushed for a modest rate increase, he said, in order to avoid larger rate increases if the ratepayers were called upon to pay for an unexpected capital improvement project. 
In other news, property owners abutting a Sewer Company pump station on Ocean Avenue have written to Supt. Blane asking if they could undertake what they termed a “beautification project” that would help camouflage the unit.
Resident Beth Simkins proposed to place “plantings or some other items” around the pump station “to make it nicer to look at,” she told the commissioners at the meeting.
Sewer Commission Chair Pete McNerney said the pump station was a work area where crews often have to contend with equipment issues, which made the idea of plantings somewhat problematic.
“If plantings are objectionable, what about something that’s movable, such as a fence,” said Simkins. She said it was rare that crews had to show up, while “thousands of people go by that everyday. It’s unattractive.”
Blane said that he had been working at the Sewer Company for 22 years and had “never heard a complaint about the substation.” 
Blane said that the grass that has been planted near the substation was done without permission. “I don’t want to see anything else there, and what is there is going to be cut back,” he said.
Commission member Brad Marthens suggested putting in a removable fence that would be present just “during the summer. A section of six feet would be enough to block it.” 
“I’m just trying to make it better and trying to do it jointly,” said Simkins. 
While Blane reiterated his opposition, Commission member Kathy Szabo said “if my house was across from there I wouldn’t like it, either.” She also suggested a fence. “I think we need to come to some kind of compromise,” she said. 
McNerney asked Simkins to come in with a sketch of what she thought might be appropriate, and the matter would be addressed at the next meeting.


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