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Houlton Water Company rate changes in the works

HOULTON, Maine — For years, the Houlton Water Company has relied on an outside company to supply electricity to its customer base.

 

Traditionally, the company has received its electricity from lines owned by Emera Maine, but all that will change once a new transmission line is complete.

Greg Sherman, general manager of Houlton Water Company, said the utility company — which provides water, electricity and wastewater services — has nearly completed construction of a electricity supply line from New Brunswick Power to Houlton, which will reduce the company’s cost dramatically.

At a cost of $8.9 million, the construction project is one of the largest undertakings by the utility company in recent memory and is something Houlton Water Company officials have been considering for decades, Sherman said.

“It [$8.9 million] is a huge number for us, but we should be able to pay it off in savings within 10 years,” he said. “Our purpose is always to do things that benefit our customers and this project does that.”

Houlton Water Company currently pays Emera Maine $1.2 million per year for transmission services to use the existing power lines.

The new transmission line runs from Woodstock, New Brunswick, to a substation near the border on the Canadian side. The line then continues to a substation near Cooks Brook on the U.S. side.

Houlton Water Company’s last adjustment to its basic rates was in 2013. Sherman said that the effects of inflation on the company’s operating costs have caused the net margins to be relatively small — jeopardizing the financial health of the company and making the rate increase necessary.

Under the new rate plan, a $10 minimum charge for services will be standard for residential and commercial customers and $40 for larger power customers such as Louisiana Pacific. That fee is currently $4.55, which has been the minimum charge for at least the past 30 years.

The transmission rate increase goes into effect on April 1 and will affect each customer’s monthly bill differently. Most residential customers will see an increase of about $5 in their electricity bill under the new plan, but that figure could be higher depending on usage.

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