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Water rate increases proposed in Meredith

July 21, 2010
MEREDITH — Town water users could potentially see significant rate increases with the proposal of a new rate structure.

Water System Committee Chair Jim Thorpe presented the committee's latest report to the Board of Selectmen with recommendations for water rate changes.

In February, the Water System Committee reported to the board their recommendation to raise the rates and simplify the rate structure. The February report called for a split in the capital ratio, having the system paid for 69 percent by the consumer and 31 percent by the town as opposed to the current 60/40 split. The committee also recommended discontinuing seasonal rates and make sewer rates consistent with the water rates.

Currently the treatment plant is at 100 percent capacity and is only running for up to eight hours a day. Non-metered water losses are under control and the demand peaking factor is holding steady.

However, the committee said the current rates are not providing enough revenue and enough money to put in reserves.

Additionally, the current water rate structure has several different rates while the sewer rates are relatively consistent.

The Water System Committee thoroughly reviewed and determined the best rate structure with the recommendation to have 20 percent revenue from fixed charges and uniform block rates.

According to usage studies, most water users use a small amount while there are few who use a large amount of water. Currently around 24 percent of water revenue comes from fixed rates while fixed rates account for 45 percent of sewer revenue.

The Water System Committee is recommending a new water rate to be implemented for the fourth quarter of 2010 and for all of 2011 through 2013 with linear increases through those years.

The water rate for 2010 is recommended to have a fixed rate of $21.44 per quarter and $4.06 per hundred cubic feet (ccf) per quarter. The sewer rate is recommend at $34.77 per quarter, $4.44 ccf per quarter for consumption. $104.17 per quarter is recommended for sewer systems that are not metered. Those rates will increase through 2013.

Comparing the equivalent of last year's rates through the 2013 rates, both residential and non residential water users will see a 42 percent water increase and 41 percent sewer increase at low usage. Residents at more mid-range uses (around 15 ccf per quarter), the increase will be 112 percent and for non-residential users at middle levels (90 ccf/q), the increase will be 156 percent. Water at high usage will increase 29 percent for residents and 73 percent for non-residential properties. The sewer increase for high usage will be linear for residences at 222 percent while it will be 125 percent for non-residential users at mid-range rates (18 ccf/q) and 59 percent at high usage.

Thorpe said the new rates would still put Meredith in the middle in comparison to the rates of other communities around the state.

"It's not going to be a nice, clean, linear transition for all users," Thorpe said.

Thorpe said mobile home parks will be the ones most effected by the rate increase, as one of the biggest users in the town is a mobile home park.

"We need some serious thought about ways to mitigate this transition for folks in these facilities," Thorpe said.

The board said they wanted to have another workshop to discuss the rates.

"This is a substantial move for the town," said Board Chair Colette Worsman. "It's going to impact our downtown. Not a one of us would propose raising rates if there were any other options."

Martin Lord Osman
Littleton Chmber
Varney Smith
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