June 21, 2018
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Bangor District trustees discuss Fireball Run, standpipe, declining water usage

By Andrew Neff, BDN Staff

BANGOR, Maine — When producers of the Fireball Run Adventurally stopped by Bangor recently to scout locations for camera shots and stops, one of the main stops was Thomas Hill Standpipe.

The annual 2,500-mile event is part rally race, part scavenger hunt, and part interactive game. This year, the rally begins Sept. 21 in Ohio and finishes in Downtown Bangor Sept. 29.

“Our board of trustees had to vote to allow them to visit the standpipe and for us to open it up for them,” said Kathy Moriarty, Bangor Water District general manager. “We have a policy where we open it up only for things that provide economic development and business opportunities or promotional value for Bangor since we get so many requests for people to use it for weddings or other events.”

Moriarty has no clue how the standpipe fits into the event producers’ plans, but has her own theory.

“I don’t know, but maybe some of this is a secret in that it plays a part in the whole clue process they use for the rally,” she said. “Maybe this is one of the stops for a reason.”

Whatever the reason, the standpipe will be spruced up before the rally comes to town.

Moriarty updated district trustees on the Bangor icon’s improvements at a regular meeting Tuesday afternoon.

“We had a crew come in to paint and put up latticework on the promenade deck,” Moriarty said. “They also repaired the ring wall welding and made some other repairs. It looks great.”

At the request of city officials, nine burned-out lights were replaced atop the standpipe last month before the start of the Senior League World Series at nearby Mansfield Stadium.

Another meeting agenda item concerned a Public Utilities Commission notice concerning decreasing revenues for water utilities.

“They’re concerned because when revenues are decreasing, they still have to make costly upgrades with a small customer base, so the cost of water can increase substantially,” said Moriarty.

So the PUC is looking at three preliminary responses to this trend.

“One’s a way to subsidize different kinds of fees to help the smaller utilities statewide,” Moriarty said. “Another approach is regionalization, such as if you’re a water district that has a connection to another water district, and the other doesn’t have its own [water] source, maybe they would combine.”

The third option involves partial or total deregulation by the PUC.

“If you’re a water utility, you pay a fee to the PUC every year. For us, that fee is $14,000 a year. For smaller utilities, it might be $600,” Moriarty said. “I’m not sure that would really save that much in the long run.

“It’s all something I think really needs to be looked at hard as far as the positives, the negatives and the potential outcomes.”

Moriarty said declining water utilities revenue has been a long-term trend.

“Revenue has been declining for us now about 2 percent every year, although this year we’re seeing about a 2 percent bump up because of our warm, dry summer,” she said.

Ironically, the bad news about revenue is good news as well.

“People are using less water with different shower heads, more efficient toilets and other things that conserve water,” she said.

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