Bangor’s water rate to jump 11 percent

Posted March 15, 2011, at 10:20 p.m.

BANGOR, Maine — The Bangor Water District will increase its rates for all customers by 11 percent beginning in July, pending approval of the Maine Public Utilities Commission.

District Manager Kathy Moriarty made the announcement Monday before Bangor city councilors, citing aging infrastructure as the primary reason for seeking an increase.

Even with the rate spike, Bangor ranks 15th lowest among the 146 water utilities throughout the state.

“I think we’re still a good value,” Moriarty said.

The Bangor Water District has increased its rate every other year since 2005. The last increase of 15 percent came in 2009. According to Moriarty, the district went many years and even decades without adjusting rates. However, as the many pipes and tanks that hold and supply water to homes and businesses in the Queen City have aged, maintenance is required.

If the district replaced just 1 percent of its pipe infrastructure per year, it would still cost $1.8 million annually. There are 180 miles of pipe running throughout Bangor as well as to the city’s water source, Floods Pond in Otis.

Moriarty said the district also has to meet unfunded mandates set by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, notably adding ultraviolet treatment capabilities at its plant by 2013.

The planned rate increase translates to about 6 cents per day for most customers. Average-use homeowners currently pay $51.91 per quarter and would pay $57.62 after July 1.

An 11 percent increase translates to about a half million dollars in revenue to support annual operating expenses of about $5.7 million, much of which pays for maintenance. The staff size of the Bangor Water District has not increased since 1991.

Moriarty already has said another rate increase is likely for 2013, but she didn’t predict what that jump might be.

All rate increase requests must be approved by the PUC, which provides independent oversight but rarely goes against a district recommendation.

Bangor Water District customers will receive information in the mail soon about the increase and the reasons behind why it’s needed. District staff and members of the board of directors also will host a public hearing at 7 p.m. May 19 at City Hall.

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