To the Editor:
A Water Department proposal to increase water rates will be considered at a selectmen's hearing on Tuesday, Sept. 6, at 7 p.m., at the Sharon Community Center. The Water Management Advisory Committee supports the proposal.
Residential rates would rise in blocks. All user blocks would pay a fixed base fee of $60 per year for connection to the system, and in addition usage charges for the amount of water they consume.
The lowest users' usage rate ($3 per thousand gallons) would not go up, but they would no longer receive up to 7,500 gallons of water "free" with their base fee payment.
Blocks 2, 3, and 4 usage rates per thousand gallons (winter) would rise from $4 to $6.50, $6 to $7.50, and $10 to $12.50, respectively.
The increased rates are needed to step up infrastructure maintenance as recommended in a water master plan. The Water Department depends exclusively on revenues generated by water bills, and the water rates must be set to cover the full cost of supplying the community with water.
WMAC member Paul Lauenstein, a strong advocate for water conservation for both environmental and economic reasons, supports the relatively low fixed base fee of $60 per year for all user blocks because it is not an undue burden on modest-income households,
and it allows plenty of scope for people to choose to conserve water, based on progressive usage rates.
He opposes any future scenarios that would raise the fixed base fee to as much as $200 peryear. Such a high base fee would reduce the opportunity to lower the water bill by conserving water. "Sharon has used a rate structure with low fixed base fee and progressive usage rates for many years," Mr. Lauenstein says. "It provides a strong incentive to conserve, and has been a leading reason why water use efficiency has improved so much in Sharon."
Reduced water usage has also helped the town avoid millions of dollars in water supply costs (for instance, by avoiding the need for an expensive MWRA connection).