By the end of the month, residents may see an increase in their water bills if a new water rate structure is approved.
Presenting a case for changing the rate structure, DPW superintendent Eric Hooper proposed a plan to raise $2.5 million in revenue from by lowing the break points to allow for higher raters with lower water usage . An additional $300,000 would come from revenue sources such as cell towers on water tanks and water fees for permit for a total of $2.8 million.
The problem, according to Hooper, is that the revenue is still not enough to meet the needs of the town.
“The problem with that is in order to sustain a water department and put the pipe replacements on a 100-year schedule I need $3.1 million,” Hooper said. “I’m not proposing to get to that, I’m proposing to get to that point. Listening to the residents I wasn’t comfortable with making that step yet. What I am doing is reducing the amount of subsidized water."
Studying the water use habits of Sharon, Hooper found that homes with 1-3 people use more than 65 gallons per person per day while homes with 4-6 people use less than 65 gallons per person per day. The new rate structure is designed to reduce the amount of high water users being subsidized by those using a lower amount of water.
“If you use above 65 you are being subsidized by a person using less than 65 a day,” Hooper said.
In the new rate blocks the prices would remain the same but the break points would change. The new break points would be 4,500 gallons of quarterly usage, 9,000 gallons, 22,500 gallons, and then a fourth block for anyone above 22,500 gallons.
Sharon Water Management Advisory Committee member Paul Lauenstein supported the rate increase to help repair and replace pipes and clean up town wells.
“Sharon has 18 miles of water mains over 100 years old, old caste irons pipe get clogged with rust. Sharon has 40 miles of Post World War 2 A-C (asbestos-cement) pipes which is at the end of it’s useful life,” Lauenstein said. “Well number six is tinted with dissolved iron and manganese, well 2 has nitrates.”
Lauenstein added that the town leaked 68-98 million gallons of treated drinking water per year in 2010, 2011, and 2012.
The selectmen will vote on the new rate structure at their next meeting on Oct. 29.