BENNINGTON -- Despite small increases in their budgets the water and sewer rates will remain flat this year.
The Select Board adopted the budgets Monday at a special meeting and is expected to formally adopt them on Monday on the same night a public hearing is held for a water bond vote, said Town Manager Stuart Hurd.
The water fund budget is up 3 percent while the sewer fund budget has risen 1.4 percent. This is mainly because of a water line project scheduled to be done on Northside Drive from the Northside Diner down to the former LaFlamme's furniture store. Hurd said this is the priciest of the Northside Drive projects at $400,000. It is separate from the one being done now and is expected to be put out to bid and completed in the fall.
This will have no effect on the water rates for two reasons, Hurd said. One is because water customers are using more water, the other is because sales from town-owned Morgan Spring to Vermont Pure have doubled in recent months since the company picked up an additional customer.
Hurd said the town believes the water and sewer rates should climb no more than 3 percent in a given year for the next four years. The past four years have seen water rates go up by 41 percent, the highest increase being 15 percent in one of the years. This was to counter the fact that depreciation of the system had not been factored in for many years. Now that the town has caught up, there should be no large increases, even if voters pass a $3 million water bond this month.
In March voters rejected a $3.3 million bond, part of which would have been funded by Southern Vermont College which is being urged to go on the town water system. A water tower and pumping station would have been built on the campus, thereby solving water pressure issues the town has that the state will require it to fix as early as 2018.
The project was criticized because many felt it benefited only the college. Others took issue with the fact that rate payers foot the bill while all registered voters can cast ballots on the bond.
The new proposal is largely the same only the water line between the tower and pump is more direct, which town officials say will lead to maintenance difficulties in a few decades.
The public hearing will be held Monday at 6:30 p.m. at the Bennington Fire Facility at 130 River Street during a regular board meeting. The vote is June 17, also at the fire facility, between 7 a.m. and 7 p.m. Voters in North Bennington vote at the North Bennington Village Trustees Office. Absentee ballots and early voting can be done at the Bennington Town Clerk's Office.
Contact Keith Whitcomb Jr. at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter @KWhitcombjr.