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Middlebury water rate increase takes effect

MIDDLEBURY — Middlebury’s approximately 2,100 municipal water customers will see a slight jump in their quarterly bills beginning this quarter in order to generate an additional $30,870 to help balance the town’s fiscal year 2018 water budget.
Meanwhile, the 1,820 customers patched in to Middlebury’s sewer system will see no increase in their bills, while those who dispose of septage at the town’s wastewater treatment plant will see their rates increase from the current 9 cents to 11 cents per gallon.
The Middlebury selectboard last month voted unanimously on a new municipal water rate that calls for elimination of the current “minimum usage charge” of 3,000 gallons per quarter, while maintaining a water base rate of $35.52 and a usage rate of $3.04 per 1,000 gallons. Customers will begin to see the increase reflected in their fourth-quarter bills (covering October through December) that they will receive at the end of this year.
It should be noted the increase comes on the heels of a substantial bump in the water rates last year to pay for new water meter reading technology that has been installed at all connections. That technology interacts with a high-resolution encoder on top of the meter that allows for water use information to be transmitted wirelessly to town officials at a central location. It will also eventually allow customers to better monitor their own water use, through an app.
The fiscal year 2018 sewer rate will remain unchanged, at a base rate of $39.60 per quarter, with 3,000 gallons-per-quarter included in the base rate, and a usage rate of $7.78 per 1,000 gallons.
The new, combined water-sewer charges are expected to result in an increase of around $9.12 per quarter for the typical residential user, assuming household consumption of around 10,800 gallons every three months.
Middlebury officials said the need to generate $30,870 in new water fund revenues is associated with:
•  Inflationary increases in water department workers’ benefits, amounting to $6,385.
•  The first interest payment of $13,000 on a $1 million bond Middlebury voters approved in 2010 for water system improvements. Those upgrades, according to Middlebury Director of Operations Dan Werner, involved new water main installed at Pulp Mill Bridge Road, the Butternut Ridge subdivision, Rolling Acres, Buttolph Drive and Stewart Lane.
•  A substantial fiscal year 2017 water bill the town absorbed as a result of a bankruptcy filing by a former, major water user (Specialty Filaments).
The fiscal year 2018 water budget approved by the selectboard totals $1,233,346, including $235,310 for related capital improvements to the water system.
Middlebury wastewater Superintendent Bob Wells recommended the increase in septage fees, noting those charges have not been raised since 2005. The increase from 9 cents per gallon to 11 cents, and a related bump in the Field Days rate of 3 cents per gallon to 4 cents, is expected to raise an additional $15,000 in wastewater-related revenues.
It should also be noted the town of Middlebury is negotiating a separate, new wastewater agreement with AgriMark-Cabot, one of the biggest clients of the sewer plant. Almost 120 workers are employed at Cabot’s cheese plant off Exchange Street in Middlebury. The plant produces Cabot’s award winning cheddar and whey proteins.
Reporter John Flowers is at [email protected].

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