By CYRUS LEVESQUE
MIDDLEBURY — Middlebury selectmen on Tuesday approved a water rate increase of almost 10 percent, but Assistant Town Manager Joe Colangelo said that a corresponding decrease to the sewer rates would result in little or no overall change to households and business who use both town water and sewer.
On Colangelo’s recommendation, the selectboard at a regular meeting increased the rate for water district users from $2.60 per thousand gallons to $2.85 per thousand gallons in the fiscal year beginning July 1. Colangelo said that the rate hike was necessary partly because it hadn’t been changed since 2001, but wages and expenses have continued to grow in the meantime.
In addition, Colangelo said, the water district is also paying for debt service on the Palmer Springs chlorination project, which began after 2001, and the district’s revenues were down for the current year because business problems for two major corporate water users — Specialty Filaments and Standard Register Co. — resulted in less water use by those companies.
At the same time, the wastewater district’s fund balance was doing better than usual, Colangelo said. He couldn’t pinpoint any particular area where expenses or revenues were especially better than usual, but he told the board he found room in the sewer district budget to lower rates by the same amount as the increase in the water district rates, from a current sewer district rate of $6.19 per thousand gallons to $5.94 per thousand gallons.
That will not balance out exactly because people’s usage varies, and Colangelo said that many area property owners are members of one network but not the other. He said that for an average family of four that uses only town water and not town sewer, the water rate increase would amount to about $12 per year.
MBA BANNER PLANS
Also at the June 24 meeting, the selectboard gave a warm review to a proposal by the Middlebury Business Association to highlight the natural beauty of the area by putting banners on 27 lampposts around downtown Middlebury.
At this point, the MBA has asked local artist Woody Jackson to design four images of natural scenery from the area — one for each season. There would be two sets of 22-by-42-inch banners, one for summer use and one for winter use.
“I hate to use the word ‘brand’ the town, but that’s sort of what it does,” said MBA member Nancie Dunn at Tuesday’s meeting. “We think the banners will be so beautiful that anybody could hang one in their house.”
On the whole, selectboard members seemed supportive, but raised a number of issues, including whether the banners should be used year-round and whether they could make the light poles look crowded, especially when wreaths are added during the December holiday season. MBA member Megan Brady said they are hoping to erect banners on about three quarters of the town’s lampposts. Most are on or around the town green, with a few as far away as Ilsley Public Library.
The effort is still in the planning stages; the MBA is researching the suitability of certain lampposts and which of a few different types of arms should be used to hold up the banners.
The MBA also does not have definite cost numbers yet. Selectman Bill Perkins said he supported the proposal, on the condition that it would not be paid for from town funds. “I personally don’t envision us being interested in funding this,” Perkins said.