GREAT BARRINGTON -- The town’s sewer rate could rise up to 65 percent by next July if the town’s sewer board approves a rate increase.
The increase has been anticipated since 2012, when voters approved the borrowing of $4.5 million for system upgrades that correlated with a rate increase from $370 to $460 per equivalent dwelling unit (EDU).
The previous and proposed rate increases are associated with the town’s need to upgrade an aging infrastructure and to meet new state and federal guidelines.
Construction includes upgrades to electrical systems that no longer meet current code requirements. There are also projects related to sludge processing, water lines and odor control.
Public Works Director Joseph Sokul told The Eagle the proposed rate increase could be brought for approval before the sewer board -- which is made up of members of the Board of Selectmen -- during the budget session in January or February.
The average single-family residence currently pays an annual rate of $460 per EDU, meaning each residence or building can use up to 330 gallons per day. The new recommendation is to increase the annual rate to $700.
Select Board Chairman Sean Stanton, speaking as a sewer board member, said he’s aware of the possible need to increase rates, but he said discussion at this time would be presumptuous.
Town officials responded to comments on wastewater rates increasing from the Finance Committee last week.
"Unless someone comes up with a less expensive and equally effective system, we might not have a choice," Stanton said.
Sokul said users are charged based on what is needed to maintain the facility. Depending on the residence or business, some businesses pay multiple EDUs.
"The wastewater [department] is a complete enterprise fund," Sokul said. "[That means] it’s not supported by any taxes, it’s only supported by the users."
During last week’s Finance Committee meeting, Finance Committee Chair Sharon Gregory said the plant is currently running on 1.1 million gallons a day, far below the plant’s capacity of 3.6 million gallons. The facility currently serves 3,200 town properties.
To reach John Sakata:
firstname.lastname@example.org, or (413) 496-6240.
On Twitter: @jsakata