Sewer rates on the rise in Amherst

  • Amherst Town Hall

Staff Writer
Thursday, February 01, 2018

AMHERST — Preparing for improvements to the municipal sewer system is prompting the need for a modest adjustment to the Amherst sewer rate.

The Select Board Monday unanimously approved an increase in the sewer rate from $3.75 to $3.90 per 100 cubic feet, while maintaining the water rate at $3.80 per 100 cubic feet. Both will go into effect July 1.

The average four-person household, using 12,000 cubic feet of water per year, will see an increase of $18 for the combined annual bills, from $906 to $924.

The sewer fees will support a $4.43 million budget, which is $164,250, or 3.8 percent higher, than this year’s $4.27 million budget.

Department of Public Works Superintendent Guilford Mooring said part of the reason for the increase is a growing list of sewer capital needs, including a nearly $1 million device that aids with the thickening of sludge, by removing liquids, and preparing the material for transport.

Sewer extensions that began in 2012 on Harkness Road, which is complete, and in Amherst Woods, where a pump station needs to be finished, are already factored into the budget, Mooring said.

The water fees will support a $4.47 million budget, which is $100,042, or 2.3 percent higher, than this year’s $4.37 million budget.

While the water fund doesn’t have the same needs as sewer, Mooring said there are projects to complete, including automating the Baby Carriage water treatment plant in South Amherst and making it more friendly to being brought online.

The fund also covers repairs to the roof at the Atkins water treatment plant in Cushman, improvements to the Centenneial water treatment plant in Pelham, and replacement of water lines on Canton and Harvard avenues.

Mooring said the next need for increasing water rates may come if the town moves forward with purchasing land and installing a well in the northern part of Amherst or Sunderland.

In related business, the Select Board took no action Jan. 22 on allowing farmers to install separate meters to avoid paying sewer fees on the water they use for agricultural purposes, such as irrigating their fields, washing their equipment and hydrating their livestock.

But members indicated they will support the concept, with Andrew Steinberg noting that agriculture has been a tradition in the community, as seen in the town seal that features a book and a plow.

Mooring said the requirement for a second meter would be to install a separate irrigation meter with a backflow device. He said though the town has a dozen farms, just five farms that use sewer would likely want to have a separate meter.

Bockelman said he needs to get more details about connection fees and the process of approving second meters before the Select Board can act.

Scott Merzbach can be reached at smerzbach@gazettenet.com.