PRESENT: Chairman Hathaway, Councilor Friedman, Councilor Perkins, Councilor Parker, Councilor King, Manager W. Reed, Deputy Clerk K. Humphrey, Sewer District Trustees: Steven Thebarge, Gary Brown and Esther Bushway. Sewer District Superintendent Gary Brooks, Members of the Public.
ITEM 1. The February 17, 2011 Joint Workshop with the Veazie Sewer District commenced at 7:00PM.
Introductions were conducted between the two boards.
Sewer District Chair Steven Thebarge noted that the article in the Bangor Daily News had some inaccuracies in it. He outlined that the district has not approved a rate increase, rather they have voted to start the process. It is a three tier process.
Sewer District Chair Steven Thebarge outlined that when the district received the requests for info it was their assumption it was for the Town Council. The requests were made during office hours and the Town Council had been cc’d. The requests were processed as soon as they could be but the Trustees were curious about the increased interest in the Sewer District’s operations.
Sewer District Trustee Esther Bushway outlined that the district has a meeting every month and anyone is welcome to attend. If someone has questions they should come to the meeting and ask.
Councilor Perkins stated that he did not have any problems with the Sewer District and he did not request any info from the district.
Councilor King stated that he does not have a problem with the district and the requests did not come from him. He added that if he had had questions he would have gone to down to the district and asked.
Manager Reed outlined that the Town had not received a sewer audit over a number of years. Sewer District Trustee Esther Bushway stated that the Town has. Superintendent Gary Brooks stated that the district is required to provide one to the Town.
Chairman Hathaway stated that he as Council Chair had asked Manager Reed to scrutinize all requests for increases. Manager Reed requested information from the BAT, water district, sewer district and Penobscot County. He outlined that the Town is trying to be as frugal as the Sewer District and is looking at all avenues.
Sewer District Chair Steven Thebarge outlined that the rate increase arose from a new auditor coming it and looking at the district’s ability to address infrastructure needs and to fund its reserve accounts.
Member of the public Travis Noyes inquired why the Sewer District didn’t have their minutes on their website. Sewer District Chair Steven Thebarge outlined that they didn’t have the features to do that but would be working on getting them on there this year with some new software.
Councilor Friedman inquired on whether the Sewer District had collection problems with the same people the Town has with real estate taxes and whether it was something that the two could work together on the legal portion. Manager Reed outlined that its s separate process and they are governed by their own laws. Sewer District Office Manager Tammy Olson stated that when the Town’s liens matured or the Sewer District’s liens matured, that would be the time to work together.
There was discussion on past instances where the Sewer District felt the Town did not work with them on a couple foreclosure properties and they didn’t get their money.
Chairman Hathaway asked the Trustees what the Town could do different to change things. Sewer District Trustee Esther Bushway stated that if the Town has a property that it is going to foreclose on the Sewer District would like to be contacted.
Manager Reed stated that in the future the Town will send a list every year of the impending foreclosures to the Sewer District and it will be made a policy of the Town.
Sewer District Trustee Steven Thebarge outlined that they had heard the Council is working on paving projects for this summer. It would be nice to work with each other on that. Chairman Hathaway stated that no decisions have been made on paving projects. He turned the questions around and asked the Sewer District Trustees what they have for plans. It was noted that the Sewer District needs to do work on Oak Grove Street.
Sewer District Chair Steven Thebarge outlined that proposed in their rate increase is $7,500 increase in the Town’s assessment the first year, $7,500 the second year and nothing in the third year. He added that rate payers will be charged for what they use, there will be no minimum. For an average home that uses 2,000 cubic feet there will be about a $14 rate increase per quarter.
Sewer District Trustee Esther Bushway outlined that she had found for ten years not to raise rates but realizes that was now wrong. The district has reserve accounts it needs to fund. She stated she thinks people should pay for what they use. She added that the district is not looking to make money. Their rates will still be lower than what other sewer districts in surrounding communities are asking for.
Member of the Public James Parker outlined the need for educating the people. He added that the letter that was sent out, the first paragraph was misleading.
Chairman Hathaway outlined that the two boards should have an open dialogue about having a higher town assessment and a lower rate increase. Residents can deduct their real estate taxes not their sewer bill.
Chairman Hathaway outlined that a lot of information has been exchanged and he hopes and pledges as Chair to make communication on a regular basis. Anything the Sewer District needs, it is available to them. He doesn’t think the Town should have to sign for any documents, there is not need to be adversarial. At the end of the day, they work for the same people.
There was discussion on perception. Superintendent Gary Brooks outlined that they talk about working together but then you seen an article in the newspaper about the Town that mentioned uncontrollable costs from the Sewer District and county.
Chairman Hathaway stated that before the public hearing he would like to explore different ways for the same outcome.
Councilor Perkins stated that he is not a fan of assessments. He outlined that non-sewer people get “screwed”. He also added that there is a good percentage of the population that is low income and they don’t itemize. He would rather see a rate increase.
Member of the Public James Parker noted that once the dam come out of the river there will be issues that affect sewer and stormwater discharge. He added that when the dam comes out there will be people that want to change the classification of the river.
The Sewer District has an annual payment of $113,602 for its debt and there are ten years left. Their current rates were not covering the payment. This rate increase will help cover it.
Superintendent Gary Brooks outlined that Veazie is all domestic waste water, they don’t have industrial zones or malls which makes it harder.
Chairman Hathaway stated that he would like to use this meeting as a way to enter into a new relationship and entertain a way to work together.
Sewer District Chair Steven Thebarge and Manager Reed will try to arrange a time next week for a group of them to get together and discuss options before the public hearing.
ITEM 2. The Joint Workshop ended at 8:52pm.
A true record, Attest:
Town of Veazie