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Wastewater user rate to continue to rise

By Kendra Caruso | Jul 28, 2020
Source: File photo Belfast's wastewater treatment plant.

Belfast — City Council voted July 21 to increase the wastewater treatment facility user rate by 5% per year to cover operating costs.

Superintendent Jon Carman said the facility had started generating enough revenue to cover its operating expenses. The additional $45,000 to $50,000 in revenue will help cover new expenses resulting from state regulation changes.

The regulation changes require the city to spend about $30,000 more on chemicals, he said. New state-mandated service and maintenance regulations will drive up the facility's expenses another $30,000.

The state requires the city to flush 10%, or 15,000 feet, of pipes annually, perform inspections and maintenance on all cross-county lines and perform multiple manhole inspections.

Carman said the city should expect to see the facility's budget requests increase every year to keep up with the regulations and necessary maintenance. Both of the facility's reserve accounts have been depleted and only $150,000 remains in one. The city has not added to the maintenance reserve account in six years, he said.

Equipment maintenance is important because if problems are not fixed in a timely manner they turn into larger problems, he said. “We need the money, we need to stay ahead of things, not go behind again.”

Councilor Mike Hurley said other city facilities, like the Water District, are in similar predicaments. But in the current economic climate brought on by the coronavirus, he said it was important to keep the tax burden on residents and businesses as low as possible.

If the city does not stay current on equipment maintenance, it turns into an even bigger problem, Hurley said. If the city cuts budgets for services it might keep some residents happy, but ultimately the municipality ends up suffering.

“Everybody wants to cut to keep taxpayers happy, but when you do, you go backwards,” he said.

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