To the Editor:
Your Page 1 headline of Oct. 3, “Bethel finds 100 more living units to charge for Sewer” makes it sound as if Sudbury Village and other apartment operations in Bethel had somehow avoided paying sewage fees in recent years. On the contrary, Sudbury Village Elderly Apartments (12 Evergreen Road) has been paying a quarterly fee since construction of the complex in 1976. Its annual average fee for the past three years has been $4,225 as metered by the Bethel Sewer District.
The fee has historically based on usage, as it should be. As your story accurately reported, the new rate is based on an arbitrary minimum set by selectmen, which has no relationship to usage. The district will charge $121.35 for one to 1,500 cubic feet and $8.09 per 100 cubic feet thereafter. Sudbury Village has 23 single occupant units out of 24, one bathroom, no sink pigs, and no dishwashers. The average unit usage on the most recent bill was 566 cubic feet in one building and 416 in the other. At the $121.35 rate, the bill goes to $11,649.60 pre-year (nearly 300 percent higher). The sewer bill will be within $3,000 of the total tax bill. Accommodating the sewer fee increase would amount to a $26 per month increase in rents at Sudbury Village. Some might say the Bethel Sewer District is assuming the financial trappings of a school district.
In other towns with concentrations of elderly and multi-family housing in Maine and New England, the standard procedure for metering water and sewage is with central metering systems, not by individual arbitrary minimums. Sewer officials don’t want the nightmare of individual meters, and outside Maine, don’t want any PUC pricing hassles. To accommodate system upgrades and construction, sewer and water systems take out long-term loads, depend on community growth and gradual increases in rates. To hit users with a 300 percent annual increase in rates is an unheard of municipal policy; except, as we now know, in Bethel.
Maine’s PUC, by the way, has no control over municipal sewer districts, only over water districts and other utilities. Norway’s last sewer rate increase was accompanied by a hearing and an appeals process. No such system apparently exists in Bethel.
Robert M. Moorehead
Owner, Sudbury Village Elderly Apartments