Wiscasset selectors passed the new sewer rates on June 21, after department superintendent Rob Lalli explained how revenue can rise by 46 per cent, with most rates rising by around half.
Via Zoom, Lalli said during the meeting at the city office, only one rate will increase by 46%: the flat rate created for people who have broken meters and won’t let the city fix or replace them. Lalli said the flat rate was higher than the minimum rate. The goal was to be punitive, but the rate wasn’t punitive enough, he said. “We have customers…producing more wastewater than this flat rate pays…They thumb their noses at us” by refusing to let the city onto their properties to work on the meters, he said. -he declares.
The flat rate was a quarterly rate of $270.40, Lalli said. The department wants to get people off the flat rate by letting the city go to the meters, he said. How? By making that rate the only one to rise 46%, to $395 per quarter, he said. The hike could be the incentive the holdouts need, he added. A city ordinance requires sewer users to be hooked up to meters, so enforcement is also an option, City Manager Dennis Simmons said. He said those users could be fined and taken to court for gaining access to the meter.
Another part of the revenue-boosting plan is to manage seasonal use differently, with a minimum quarterly fee “even if the house is vacant and they’re not using anything,” Lalli said. And if they use more than the minimum, they will pay more than the minimum, he said. Lalli said year-round users “carried the burden” of seasonal workers. The change avoids a widespread 46% rate hike, and it seems fairer, he said.
In other changes, camper unloading fees would increase from about $25 to $38, Lalli said.
Also on June 21, after a closed session, advisers agreed to allow the federal assessment of Whitehouse Station, New Jersey, to help assess the Maine Yankee. Simmons explained in email responses and a phone interview on June 22 that the city’s 20-year tax agreement with the Maine Yankee expires in 2023 and the city needs updated information for a new tax assessment.
The city will pay a federal assessment of up to $37,000, depending on the work, Simmons said: A first phase will provide “preview”; a second phase, more information, if the municipality requests it; otherwise, the cost would be less, he explained.
The council provided $346,371 in public funds for the handicap-accessible elevator at Wiscasset Elementary School. The school department’s acting chief financial officer, Cathy Coffey, said the remainder of the $868,750 for the project will come from fund balances. “There is therefore no impact on local taxes.”
Selectmen nodded a one-hour parking limit for three spaces in front of the Wiscasset Public Library; Appointment of Selectman Dusty Jones to the Policy Committee of the Maine Municipal Association; another year’s service from Midcoast Humane; and a commercial license for Sally A. Hinsch and Council of Salmon Falls, LLC, 61 Flood Ave.
In a public comment, Judy Flanagan said being a poll clerk on June 14 was an honor and a pleasure; she felt bad watching congressional testimony about the events surrounding the 2020 presidential election. At the polls, people approached her and others and thanked them, she said. “And I thought, ‘That’s what this is about.
President Sarah Whitfield added that she was “super happy and proud as a citizen” at the turnout of 703.
The meeting was the first since residents elected William Maloney and James Andretta to the board and kept Whitfield there. The new board kept Whitfield as chairman and Jones as vice-chairman.