During a Town of Littleton Board of Commissioners meeting on Monday, a discussion took place about sewer rates.
Helen Page, a planner with Upper Coastal Plan Council of Governments, led the discussion in reference to the town’s approximately $3M grant application for the wastewater treatment plant repairs as recommended by the engineer’s report.
Page gave the staff and commissioners a breakdown of requirements to possibly achieve points toward eligibility for 100% forgiveness of the project.
“That doesn’t mean you will get that project,” she said.
One of those requirements is based on what the town charges for sewer, Page said. The rate for 5,000 gallons has to be more than $58 to qualify, she said.
“We need to do everything we can in other ways to get you more points,” she said.
Street Commissioner Stephen Barcelo said the town went through a very large increase on the water side — for some people it was 50%.
The reason the wastewater treatment plant is in the position it is in is due to inadequate funding, Cemetery Commissioner Jim Skilton said.
“And the reason why is there is not enough money in the rates,” he said. “It has to operate on a self-sustaining basis.”
Page said Littleton is not the only one.
“Towns across the state are paying catch-up,” she said.
Skilton said, at some point, the town’s rates need to reflect the costs.
Page asked if everyone is willing to raise the rates where they need to be to qualify for 100% forgiveness of the project?
Water/Sewer Commissioner Ophelia Gould-Faison said the town is without much choice in the matter.
“This is something that should have been done,” she said. “This is behind us now. We are talking about what is in front of us — what we have to do to sustain and getting that dirty water out according to the federal and state guidelines.
“We want the people to understand what this means — it is not just because we are a board and we can do it, but we need to do it to upgrade our facility. I’d like to take the citizens along on this journey, to be transparent to them, to let them know this is needed and explain it to them.”
Barcelo asked what the increase might be to the average customer.
Page said she did not have the rates with her.
“The intention is to do our best in what we send for you to adopt,” she said. “I’m going to try to have something to be finalized at the March 8 meeting.”
Skilton clarified, this is just the sewer rates — the water rates are operating on an entirely different system.
Page said, “If we’re going to do this for sewer, you need to have the same rate process for water.”
Barcelo said, “We’ve already increased water.”
Page said, “Your rates need to be adopted at your March meeting, and the new rates out to the public by April 30 before we send in the application.”
Police Commissioner Lynn Moseley said people are on fixed incomes.
“We don’t want to stifle businesses coming in town,” he said.
Page said the people who use the most average amount will be the least effected.
“That is the intention,” she said.
A decision was not made to raise any rates, but discussion will continue at the next meeting.
In other news, Finance Commissioner Clyde Johnston is resigning as Planning Board chairman because the Planning Board makes recommendations to the board of commissioners, making it a conflict for him to have both positions.
When considering a new Planning Board member, Skilton said it will be helpful if the person had some experience, rather than coming in totally green.
Commissioner Gould-Faison said that would be ideal.
“However, I don’t think that would have to be a deciding issue, because that would really limit people,” she said. “If someone is coming up with a lot of experience in this area, you’re going to select that person. Sometimes you need a fresh look — the same people get on these same boards.
“I know that the town would benefit, even for us, if everyone on this board knew everything. But that is not the case. I know all of you ace all of these different departments, but I don’t. I would like to see our town have a variety represented on these boards — a variety of ethnicities and economic categories.”
The board decided to open up the applications and to vote on the new Planning Board member at the March 22 meeting. In addition, if more than five people apply, the board will reduce the number to five, interview them and then vote. The one open position must be filled by someone living in the city limits.
Lastly, an application was approved to celebrate Robert Silver’s birthday.
Next week, Silver will turn 94 years old. At 3 p.m. Saturday, the family has invited folks to celebrate his birthday by driving. Folks will line up in front of the post office on the street at 109 Mosby Ave., go around Halifax Street, make a left at the stop sign, go into the last driveway and come around the parking lot of the Town Center, 127 SW Main St. Silver will be sitting in the Town Center.