The Star-Herald

Water rate increase necessary

To the editor:

The Presque Isle Utilities District, water division, is requesting permission from the Maine Public Utilities Commission to increase water rates starting on Feb. 1, 2019. If approved, rates will increase by an average of 11.55 percent for all metered customer classes.

The new rate will generate an additional $174,609, bringing water division annual revenue to $1,686,390.

Several different factors have created the need for a rate increase. Most important, the utilities district has added new debt as a result of critical improvements to the water system. One project was a second Aroostook River pipe crossing which was constructed in 2017 at a cost of $900,000. It added security of supply in the event of

catastrophic failure of the original water main.

Another important project was an extensive upgrade to the Reach Road Water Treatment Plant. In order to maintain compliance with U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and Maine Maine Department of Health and Human Services regulations, we needed to strengthen disinfection by adding an ozone system along with a more powerful ultraviolet light system. The project cost was about $3,000,000.

Combined, those projects added about $200,000 to our annual debt payments. Our last rate increase in 2015 was not enough to cover this entire extra debt, nor enough to pay for our most recent upgrades to the Parsons Street area. New water mains on Park St., Parsons St., Central Drive, Dobson St., and Dragon Drive were installed in 2017-2018 and the cost was approximately $1,600,000. The payment for these improvements will be about $88,000 each year for 20 years.

Another important factor is inflation. Though inflation is, and has been relatively low, the district has not raised water rates since 2015. Since that time, most of the supplies, chemicals and services we use have increased, along with costs for labor, special tools and equipment.

The proposed rate increase will change the average customer bill in Presque Isle from $327 per year to about $363, an increase of about $36 per year. On your quarterly bill, the increase will be approximately $9, or about $3 per month for our average customer.

At the new rate a penny buys a little more than 1-1/2 gallons of water. That is an amazing bargain when you consider the benefits of safe, pressurized water delivered into our homes and businesses. At the standard allowance of 1,200 cubic feet per quarter, the minimum bill for water will be $54.42 every 3 months.

A public hearing is scheduled at 3 p.m. on Tuesday, Dec. 11, at the District office at 541 Main Street in Presque Isle. At that time, detailed information will be available to explain the proposed increase. More information also is available by calling the utilities district superintendent.

Frank Kearney, superintendent.

Presque Isle Utilities District

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