MERIDEN — A remote public hearing regarding proposed increases to the city’s water use and sewer rates has now been postponed to May 5, according to city officials.
According to the proposal, the city’s water usage rate would be raised by 6.89%, to $4.81 per 100 cubic feet, from its current rate of $4.50.
Meanwhile, the city’s sewer use rate would increase by 6.82%: from $4.69 to $5.01 per 100 cubic feet.
The hearing previously had been set for Monday, an hour prior to the City Council’s remote meeting, which is still scheduled for 6:30 p.m.
City Manager Tim Coon, in an email to the Record-Journal, stated the hearing had been postponed and is now scheduled to be held in conjunction with the May 5 meeting of the City Council’s finance committee. The finance committee, during that meeting, is expected to take up its final review of the city’s fiscal 2022 budget proposal.
The finance committee rescheduled its review of the budget proposal following Gov. Ned Lamont’s signing of an executive order that allows municipalities and regional boards of education the flexibility to push back their budget adoption dates.
The City Council resolution regarding the proposed rate increases cites the costs of upgrading the city’s Water Pollution Control facility to reduce phosphorus from treated wastewater, including increased staffing and debt service, as the primary driver for the proposed rate increases. The cost of that project, which began in 2019, is more than $38 million.
The city’s Public Utilities Commission previously approved the proposed rate increases earlier this year.
Officials noted the city last raised its water and sewer rates in 2018.
Public utilities officials, speaking during the Feb. 16 meeting of the Public Utilities Commission meeting, explained retained earnings from previous revenue collections would be used to cap rate increases at under 7% for the upcoming year.
For example, officials plan to use around $122,000 in water earnings to cap the proposed increase in water use rates.
Lou Arata, vice chairman of the Public Utilities Commission, was the lone member to vote against the proposed increases last month.
“I felt it was inappropriate for the commission to approve a rate increase, since we are just coming out of the COVID situation,” Arata told the Record-Journal, explaining he felt it was important to have a “neutral year” in terms of usage rates.
“It’s one more expense we really don’t need to levy on people,” Arata said.
Steve Volpini, the commission’s chairman, described the project to reduce phosphorus from treated wastewater as a “big undertaking.”
Volpini said the need for rate increases is unfortunate, adding he hoped the recent federal stimulus funds would help take “a little bit of the sting out of” those increases.