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02/14/2012

Sewer rates set to increase March 1, 2012

Sewer rates will rise 4.5 percent beginning March 1, 2012.

The Town Council on Feb. 13, 2012 unanimously approved the increase, raising the rate of $37.70 for the first 100 cubic feet of measured water usage to $40; and $4.95 for each additional 100 cubic feet to $5.10.

The increase is the first of four annual rate increases approved by the council to help fund recent updates to the Southern Cape treatment facility on Spurwink Avenue; and, ongoing efforts to curtail overflow near the Ottawa Road pump station.

The overall increase by 2015 will be 20 percent, an increase of $11 to the average monthly sewer bill of $53.

Cape Elizabeth is sharing the $4 million project at the Ottawa Road pump station with South Portland, which also uses the station. "Rather than do sewer rates in one big jump, the Town Council has looked at it more long term," said Town Manager Michael McGovern.

It is the second sewer-rate increase approved by the council in the last four years. In 2008 the council approved incremental rate increases through January 2011. "It was known it would not be enough, once these two projects got going," McGovern said.

The $2 million Spurwink Avenue treatment plant project upgraded the 25-year-old facility to virtually eliminate overflow during heavy rains, when sewage bypassed the facility and went untreated into Peabble's Cove. "Now that happens almost never, as opposed to more often than we would have liked," he said.

The second project attempts to mitigate similar overflow problems at the Ottawa Road pump station. Robert Malley, director of Public Works, told councilors Feb. 13 that one of the first steps of the proposed mitigation plan is to identify sources of water infiltration into the system. "We need to some data collection, we need to some house-to-house surveys to find out if there are sump pumps connected to the system because that's where a lot of the flow is coming from," Malley said.

Cape Elizabeth's share of the project is estimated at $2.5 million. McGovern is proposing that most of the money come from a $1.8 to $2 million, 15-year bond to be issued in 2014, but he is also recommending that $500,000 to $700,000 of the cost be funded with existing sewer-fund balances. The bond will also require $150,000 for annual amortization costs.

The Town, City of South Portland and the Portland Water District is waiting to hear if the Maine Department of Environmental Protection will accept their mitigation proposal, Malley said.

In answer to a question from Councilor Jessica Sullivan, McGovern said Cape Elizabeth's topography contributes to a sewerage disposal cost that is higher than in neighboring communities. Rises, valleys and ledge make for pleasant scenery, but also make it harder to get sewage to the treatment facility. "We have more pump stations than the entire City of Portland," McGovern said. Larger lots and distance between neighborhoods also make sewerage service more costly, he said.

Here are the approved increases that will take place over four years:

Effective March 1, 2012
$40.00 Up to 100 cubic feet of monthly measured water usage
$ 5.10 Each additional 100 cubic feet or fraction thereof, of monthly measured usage
Increase - 4.5 percent

Effective March 1, 2013
$43.00 Up to 100 cubic feet of monthly measured water usage
$ 5.25 Each additional 100 cubic feet or fraction thereof, of monthly measured usage
Increase - 5.7 percent

Effective March 1, 2014
$46.00 Up to 100 cubic feet of monthly measured water usage
$ 5.41 Each additional 100 cubic feet or fraction thereof, of monthly measured usage
Increase - 5.4 percent

Effective March 1, 2015
$48.00 Up to 100 cubic feet of monthly measured water usage
$ 5.57 Each additional 100 cubic feet or fraction thereof, of monthly measured usage
Increase - 3.8 percent

The sewer connection fee would remain $4,000, as it has been since 2010.