July 13, 2020

Millinocket sewer rates to jump by 55 percent> Hike needed to fund bond for system improvements

MILLINOCKET — For the first time since 1991, the rates Millinocket sewer users pay will increase by 55 percent.

The new rates for customers who use the minimum service will go to $36.15 for 1,500 cubic feet or less of usage. It represents an increase of about 55 percent compared with the current rate of $23.25 for the minimum service. The rate per 100 cubic feet of usage will go from $1.55 to $2.41.

More than half of Millinocket’s sewer users pay the minimum charge. New rates will be reflected in bills that will be sent out in March.

The Town Council last week set the new sewer rates after adopting the 1997-98 waste water budget. Officials approved a budget of $565,325, which represents an increase of $213,186 compared with the funds spent for fiscal 1996-97. The budget includes $100,000 for capital improvements.

In setting the new higher sewer rates, some council members said they had received few complaints about the increase.

Interim Town Manager Dean Beaupain said the increase in sewer rates was not because operating costs had increased, but because rates went up to fund a $2.4 million bond for the major sewer improvements completed in the past few years.

Also, the council approved an order authorizing the town treasurer to borrow up to $2.4 million to fund the sewer improvements made during past the few years. Town officials used money from the town’s general fund surplus, waste water reserve accounts and other accounts to fund the projects. Officials say those accounts will be reimbursed with proceeds from the bond.

During a quarterly budget review of town accounts, officials learned that some overtime accounts in the police, fire and ambulance budgets could be significantly overspent by the end of the June 30 fiscal year.

For the police overtime, the town budgeted $48,000 and has spent $41,000 for the first six months of the year. For Fire Department overtime, the town budgeted $48,000 and has spent $44,116. For the ambulance attendants account, the town budgeted $96,548 and has spent $69,295.

Officials took no action to address the shortfalls, but indicated the issue would be addressed after the new town manager, Paul Bird, assumes his duties next week.

Beaupain suggested that, in the case of the Police Department, some shifts not be filled. When officers use their earned vacation time, their shifts are filled by other officers, who are paid an overtime rate.

Regarding the fire and ambulance budgets, Fire Chief Milan Thornton said ambulance services had increased by 34 percent. Officials indicated they would review current ambulance rates and prepare a rate study.

The fire chief said his budget proposal, which included funding for the vacations, holidays and sick time owned his men, had been cut. He said the $48,000 approved for overtime for this fiscal year was much less than what had actually been spent for overtime in past years. For example, during the last two fiscal budget years, the town actually spent $55,482 and $67,387, respectively, in overtime costs.

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