Nearly every seat was filled in the ballroom of the Sharon community center as residents and town officials discussed proposals for changing Sharon’s water rates at Tuesday night’s Board of Selectmen meeting.
Selectman William A. Heiten started the hearing by saying “there are various options the town could consider; most will never happen. There’s a lot of information about how good current structures relate to conservation of water.”
“It may work to a certain extent in other communities--the concept of per person use will be discussed, increasing tiers and rates. They have done nothing for conservation.”
He went on to discuss the importance of generating enough revenues to fund the water department, fund infrastructure projects that will ultimately reduce the amount of water wasted, and continue programs that incentivize residents to buy updated appliances.
The current water rates in Sharon include and is split up in four block rates, the lowest $3 per thousand gallons, then second $6, the third $9, and the fourth $12. Each block costs $1 more in the summer.
Eric Hooper, Sharon Superintendent of the Department of Public Works presented a proposal that would increase the fixed rate from $15 to $20 and increasing the rates in the summer to encourage more conservation.
He said the rate structures were not supposed to do social engineering, but later talked about encouraging conservation as part of the rate structure to satisfy demands from state regulations.
David Crosby, chairman of the Sharon Water Management Advisory Committee, which conducted a two-year study on water rates. He talked about a couple of proposals that would charged based on the amount of gallons used per person per household and pointed to figures that showed larger households are actually more efficient than smaller households of one or two, in terms of the amount of gallons per person per household, based on town census data.
According to the study, households of one or two use over 90 gallons per person per household on average, while larger households of seven or eight use around 50. The goal is try to get everyone under 55 gallons per person per household.
This statistic on usage from smaller household drew criticism from a number of residents, who argued that smaller household are likely to have kids that come home from college and that the numbers are fluid.
Crosby acknowledged this in his presentation and said the town attorney advised against it. He presented it as something that could be possible down the road, since it would be difficult to implement it.
Paul Lauenstein, a Sharon resident and member of the Water Supply Citizens Advisory Committee, made a proposal that would keep the current base rate of $15, but would raise summer rates by $3 instead of $1. A petition supporting the proposal was signed by 552 Sharon residents.
“This would raise enough revenue to fully fund the water department, while spreading the additional cost over all users and increasing the incentive to conserve in summer when it matters the most. Keeping the fixed fee low would allow residents to control their water bills through conservation,” said Lauenstein in an email after the meeting. “Conservation water rates keep down water bills for everyone by avoiding the multi-million dollar cost of importing MWRA water to accommodate economic development.”
He also argued that charging rates based on gallons per person per household would favor heavy users and raise rates for those who conserve, relative to the current structures.
The Board of Selectmen decided not to take up a vote, so they can take time to consider all the information presented. They will vote at their September 3 meeting.What do you think about the water rates? Let us know in the comments below and stay tuned with Patch for updates!