ISLANDER FILE PHOTO

Sewer rate to stay flat



BAR HARBOR — Despite some increased expenses, no rate change is proposed for the town’s sewer budget for fiscal year 2018. A public hearing on the budget is set for the Aug. 15 Town Council meeting.

Councilors tentatively approved the budget last month when it was presented by Finance Director Stan Harmon, Public Works Director Chip Reeves and Water/Wastewater Superintendent Jeff Van Trump.

They said the department has been focusing on operational adjustments to make the existing sewer plant more efficient. It was last rebuilt in 1997.

“There’s a big difference in cost between expanding or replacing the plant, and improving what we’ve got,” Van Trump said.

The department projects billable volume will be stable and maintains one rate of $7.80 per 100 cubic feet. The last rate increase was in 2014, but the average annual increase over the last eight years is 1.6 percent.

The Jackson Laboratory represents about a quarter of the volume for the water and sewer departments, Reeves said, and the wastewater plant may see a dip in volume when the laboratory’s new facility in Ellsworth opens next spring. “The lab is predicting those volumes aren’t going to drop, but we’re being conservative with this budget,” he said. The budget reflects a one percent decrease in revenue.

“Over the past 10 years, we have consistently treated 98 percent of our total flow,” Reeves wrote in the budget memo. “This success was useful in negotiating the combined sewer overflow master plan implementation out of our present five-year licensing cycle.”

Without that high treatment rate and low levels of inflow and infiltration, the Environmental Protection Agency may have required the town to implement that master plan at a cost of up to $8 million.

Reeves told the council the Wastewater Division will work with the Planning Department to discuss possible future extensions of the system. Recent sewer line extensions have been funded by private developers.

Between January and June of this year, 21 sewer connection permits were issued, 13 of which were on properties that also have private septic systems.