Water, sewer rates continue to rise

Valley News Staff Writer
Published: 11/30/2020 8:54:13 PM
Modified: 11/30/2020 8:54:09 PM

LEBANON — Two Upper Valley communities plan to increase water and sewer rates in the coming year to help pay for infrastructure for the municipally run utilities.

Canaan is proposing to increase its rates by about 40% so it can afford to upgrade a roughly 130-year-old water main and pay a part-time employee who helps run its system, which serves a little more than 200 customers in the village.

Meanwhile, Lebanon will hold a public hearing Wednesday night to discuss a proposed 8% water rate increase and a 7.2% increase in sewer rates.

Lebanon’s new rates would impact about 3,300 customers and affect neighboring Enfield, which sends its waste to the treatment plant in West Lebanon.

Leaders in the communities say the increases could prevent ratepayers from seeing more drastic spikes in the future.

Lebanon has been gradually increasing rates since 2018 as part of a plan to pay off debt, while Canaan hopes to undertake about $1.2 million in water upgrades before an emergency would force more costly repairs.

“It’s clearly a significant rate increase, one which none of us really want to have happen, but it’s a reality,” Canaan Town Administrator Mike Samson said Monday.

Samson said the town usually spends about $145,000 to run sewer and water operations in Canaan, but that number will increase to about $200,000 next year.

That’s because Canaan recently hired a part-time worker to assist the full-time position overseeing the two utilities and is readying to take on a 25-year loan for water main work that’s expected to start in 2022.

The town also plans to implement a new rate structure that will charge users a base fee for up to 3,000 gallons of water a quarter. The change will impact those who use the least amount of water the most, Samson said.

For instance, a “small user” who uses only 190 gallons of water per quarter would see their bill rise to about $47 a quarter, up from $3.17.

Larger properties, such as the Canaan Elementary School, could see their bills increase from about $900 to $1,400 a quarter, Samson said.

Meanwhile, Lebanon’s new rates are part of a 2018 plan that called on the city to significantly increase its bills to help pay off debt from large projects.

That includes the combined sewer overflow, or CSO, projects, a $75 million court-mandated effort to separate sewer and stormwater in 15 miles of Lebanon’s sewer system.

At the time, Massachusetts-based Raftelis Financial Consultants predicted that debt on Lebanon’s sewer system would total $3.3 million by 2023, while the water system would have $2.1 million debt.

That’s because about 90% of expenses were paid by taking on bonds, with another 9% coming from existing funds.

During a meeting last month, City Manager Shaun Mulholland said that it’s difficult to determine how much the increases would affect the average Lebanon household. The city’s formula takes into account both the size of pipes connected to residences and businesses as well as usage, he said.

“There really isn’t an average way to figure that out any longer because of the way we have our structure,” Mulholland told the City Council.

The Council is scheduled to discuss the new rates at 7 p.m. on Wednesday. Information on how to access the meeting can be found at LebanonNH.gov/Live.

If approved, Lebanon’s new fees would take effect on Jan. 1.

Canaan’s Selectboard is expected to discuss its proposed rates sometime this month, Samson said. They would go into effect in April.

Tim Camerato can be reached at tcamerato@vnews.com or 603-727-3223.

Valley News

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