CHESHIRE — Sewer rates will increase for businesses under a plan that town leaders say is more equitable to commercial and residential customers.
Residential customers contribute just over 50 percent of the load on the sewer plant and pay nearly 60 percent of the plant’s revenue, according to Town Engineer Walter Gancarz.
The other two contributors, businesses and Cheshire Correctional Institution, send a higher percentage of the load to the plant than they contribute in revenue. Gancarz said increasing costs for commercial users would make the revenue distribution more equitable.
“I think it is a more equitable solution and more fair to the residents who have paid a higher rate in the past,” he said.
The town filed a lawsuit against the state, arguing it should properly reimburse the town for the prison’s sewer costs. A decision could be reached in that long-running case next month.
The Water Pollution Control Authority voted last week to approve the new rates, which go into effect for December’s annual bill.
Residential rates will remain unchanged. Commercial use rates will rise from $3.07 per hundred cubit feet of water to $3.98 per hundred cubic feet. Businesses using less than 206 gallons per day, the average residential water consumption, will pay the residential flat rate of $440.
Gancarz said half of the 440 commercial sewer users will see no change on their bills in December.
During a presentation to the Town Council last week, some council members worried that the rate hike was sudden and could send the wrong message to prospective businesses.
“It’s a big hit for the commercial users,” said Republican councilor Tom Ruocco.
“I just think going up this percentage is going up a little too much at a time,” said Paul Bowman, a Republican and council vice chairman. “I think that type of jump is just a little too much when we’re trying to foster and encourage incentives (for businesses) to come to Cheshire.”
Town Manager Michael Milone said the town needs to pay for recent upgrades to the plant. If the work isn’t funded by sewer users, all taxpayers would bear that burden.
Even with the increase, Cheshire’s commercial sewer rates are still lower than surrounding towns, including Southington, Meriden and Wallingford, according to Gancarz.
“What we’re doing here isn’t out of line with what other communities do. It doesn’t put Cheshire into a non-economic position,” he said. “It is a significant jump in one year, but in reality they should have been paying more for many years.”
Town Council chairman Rob Oris supported the rate changes. He’s concerned about making Cheshire attractive to businesses but also said Cheshire has completed state-mandated upgrades that other towns have yet to make. He also agreed that the new cost system was more equitable.
“I think (businesses) have benefited from a disproportionately low number for some time,” Oris said.
Gancarz said a letter will be sent to businesses about the increase.