Hadley Select Board passes on sewer fee hike on heavy users

  • Hadley Town Hall. GAZETTE STAFF

Staff Writer
Tuesday, August 13, 2019

HADLEY — Even though Hadley continues to face a likely deficit in its sewer enterprise fund, elected officials are not yet ready to impose higher fees on the businesses that put the most waste through the sewage treatment plant.

At a hearing Wednesday on making adjustments only to the sewer rate for businesses whose waste totals 7,500 cubic feet per year or more, the Select Board voted 3-2 against a motion by board member Molly Keegan to raise the current $6.67 per 100 cubic feet rate by 5 percent, to $7 per 100 cubic feet, on those in this heaviest-use tier.

Keegan was joined by Chairman Christian Stanley, who called it an incremental increase. “We need to do something,” Stanley said.

The sewer enterprise fund is projected to have a deficit of $150,000 next year.

But those who voted against the adjustment, members Joyce Chunglo, David J. Fill II and John Waskiewicz, said any decision should be made after fall Town Meeting, where the board previously developed a plan to ask voters to temporarily reduce the Community Preservation Act surcharge and to use those savings to cover operations and improvements to the sewer system. Board members agreed to revisit sewer fees if voters reject that approach.

The board earlier put off a proposed across-the-board 15 percent increase in sewer rates that was developed from a report by Tighe & Bond consultants.

Following that rejection, Town Administrator David Nixon and Department of Public Works Superintendent Chris Okafor brought forward a plan to increase rates for only the heaviest users by 10 percent, from $6.67 per $7.34 per 100 cubic feet. That proposal, which was superseded at Wednesday’s meeting by Keegan’s proposed 5 percent fee hike on heavy users, would have also kept the residential sewer rate at $5.82 per 100 cubic feet and the commercial sewer baseline, for lighter users, at $5.97 per 100 cubic feet.

Collector Susan Glowatsky told the board that the town has 66 accounts in the so-called conservation rate tier, including hotels, car washes and the Elaine Center at Hadley nursing home. Those put out about 2.3 million cubic feet of waste annually, which is almost as much as the rest of the homes and businesses in town, she said.

But Kishore Parmar, whose Pioneer Valley Hotel Group runs the Hampton Inn, Rodeway Inn and Homewood Suites, said that a sewer impact fee charged to these businesses, along with the occupancy tax for hotels, means there is already a double tax.

“It’s quite unfair,” Parmar said of the possible increase.

Waskiewicz also objected to hitting some businesses with the higher fee

Glowatsky noted that in Northampton the commercial sewer rate is $7.88 per 100 cubic feet. “We’re low,” she said.

Whether residents will support the Select Board’s efforts to shift some of the sewer expenses to property taxes is uncertain, but one resident spoke in favor of this approach.