ELLSWORTH, Maine — City councilors on Monday set new rates for Ellsworth water customers and lowered the minimum usage level.
“This is not a huge increase,” said City Manager Michelle Beal. “This is the first increase we’ve had since 1997.”
The changes will lower the minimum usage category from 1,200 cubic feet to 900 cubic feet per quarter, but keep the minimum rate the same, Beal said Tuesday.
“We understand that in Ellsworth we have older couples who do not use 1,200 cubic feet of water, which is the minimum per quarter,” Beal said. “We did not want to increase the rate for them, so we reduced the minimum usage to 900 cubic feet.”
The minimum rate for 900 cubic feet will remain at the current $55 per quarter, she said.
The base rate for the next-highest usage category — from 900 to 3,000 cubic feet per quarter — will remain at $55 per quarter, but the rate for usage in excess of 900 cubic feet will increase to $4.10 per 100 cubic feet, an increase of 87 cents per 100 cubic feet.
The base rate for customers using between 3,000 and 9,000 cubic feet will increase from $113.14 per quarter to $141.00; while the rate for usage in excess of 3,000 cubic feet will increase to $3 per 100 cubic feet, an increase of 72 cents per 100 cubic feet.
The top rate for customers who use more than 9,000 cubic feet per quarter will jump to $321.10 per quarter, an increase of $71.16, while the rate on usage in excess of 9,000 cubic feet will rise to $2, an increase of 52 cents per 100 cubic feet.
The new rates are expected to generate an additional $163,268 per year in revenues for the water department, an increase of 18.5 percent. According to Beal, the revenues are needed.
The department lost $136,718 and, although the city is waiting for the final audit figures, the loss this year has been estimated at $142,000, according to Beal.
“We’ve been able to offset some of those losses with additional income from new users,” she said, “but the usage has not gone up as fast as the expenses.”
The new rates will go into effect on Nov. 1.
The city also has begun planning to replace the salt shed at the city garage. According to Beal, the city has budgeted $100,000 for the project, which will include new sand hopper stands. The project should be completed in time for the new salt shed to be used this winter.