STONINGTON — The Water Pollution Control Authority is proposing a 7.5 percent rate increase to offset higher electricity costs resulting from improvements to the town’s three sewage treatment plants.
Customers would be charged $5.37 per 100 cubic feet of water as of May 1 if the proposal is approved. A public hearing on the rate increase is scheduled for tonight at 6:15 p.m. at the police station.
Douglas Nettleton, executive director for the water authority, said Monday that the rates were increased by 5 percent for each the last two years after not being raised at all for the previous eight years. The increase averages about 1.6 percent over 11 years, he said.
Going forward, he said he would prefer to make small increases each year instead of hitting customers with large rate hikes.
“We’re trying to play catch up here,” he said.
Last year the electricity costs for town’s plants, which are all about 40 years old, went $95,000 over the budgeted amount. The increase is partly due to improvements made to the plants in 2012, which make them more expensive and electricity-dependent than before, Nettleton said.
Previously the plants used a chlorine chemical to clean the water but were switched over to an ultraviolet light method, which uses electricity.
“Before, it was simply the cost of buying the chemicals,” Nettleton said. “We got rid of using the chemicals but now we have higher electrical costs.”
The town budget includes a $300,000 annual subsidy for the water authority and Nettleton said he wanted to remain at that number.
“Part of the increase is to stay at that level with the town so we’re not going back to the town for more each year,” he said. “The Water Pollution Control Authority is trying to be fair to the customer and not be a burden to the town.”
Having three smaller sewage treatment plants is also less efficient and more labor- and power-intensive than operating one large plant, he said.
“There’s no economy of scale,” he said. “And, it’s a lot for a small customer base to finance.”