For most Marion residents, water rates won’t be going up at all, with the exception of a 1 percent increase on the base rate, which will now be $41. But for Tier 3 water users, you will see an additional 2.5 percent increase averaging about $46 more per year.
But as for sewer, this is the highest rate increase since 2007, according to Finance Director Judy Mooney. In addition to a 5 percent base rate increase, bringing the new base rate to $115.33, the Tier 1 rate was increase 3 percent, and Tiers 2 and 3, 10 percent.
Tier 1 users, roughly 45 percent of Marion sewer users with an average usage of a one-person household, will see an approximate increase in their sewer bill this year of $27. Tier 2 users, about 40 percent of sewer users, on average may see an increase of around $65.52 next year, and Tier 3 users could see an average increase of $207.76.
The Marion Board of Selectmen approved the recommended rates on June 19, conceding that almost all of the costs involved in running the water and sewer departments are fixed costs, leaving no opportunity to cut back to try and keep rates low.
The committee charged with the annual task of proposing the water and sewer rates broke down the water and sewer enterprise budgets, and factored in estimated new debt when setting the next year’s rate.
“As you can see, the current rates are not gonna’ swing it,” said Mooney. “We’re going to have a deficit no matter what.”
Mooney said the committee kept residents on fixed incomes in mind and tried to keep both the water and sewer rates as low as possible. The committee attempts every year to stick to a 2.5 percent increase, but as Mooney told the selectmen, “That did not swing it.”
“You’ll see, even with our proposal, there’s really not a lot of income in there, but it’s probably the least amount of damage to the fixed income [residents].”
Mooney said the committee is trying to shy away from the past practice of relying on something called “retained earnings,” unforeseen revenue that is generated as a consequence of unanticipated circumstances, such as an increase in water usage during an especially dry season.
“We tried to keep the [rates] as low as we can, but enough to support the actual budget and, as you can see, the sewer is going to be a tricky one,” said Mooney.
Selectman John Waterman lamented the rate hikes, but said, “We’re seeing rates going up pretty dramatically and it’s no one’s fault here…. There really aren’t many expenses that we have any control over.”
In other matters, the board was just about to give Jon Howland and Matt Glynn permission to move ahead with the State permitting process for an aquaculture license about 100 feet from the shore at the eastern side of Planting Island Cove, until Harbormaster Isaac Perry reminded the board of the proper procedure.
In order for the Board of Selectmen to allow an aquaculture applicant to move forward in the State permitting process, the board must hold a pubic hearing and properly notify the public. Once the state and the associated agencies grant approval, the license request then returns to the selectmen a second time for final approval of the license.
Howland and Glynn’s plan calls for a smaller-scale startup of up to 75,000 oyster seeds inside about five to six floating cages. As the oysters grow, the operation would expand to about 400 floating oyster bags inside an area of about a half-acre.
“We’re not looking to start this with a bang,” said Howland, whose family’s land surrounds much of the area overlooking the proposed aquaculture farm, in addition to Sippican Lands Trust properties nearby. “We’re looking for sustainably.” Less intrusive, he clarified.
As Glynn put it, “[We’re] keeping the optical integrity in tact so that it’s less intrusive to folks that might be wandering by…. We want to be good stewards of that area, and that property
is something that is treasured and is beautiful and we want to maintain that.”
“This unique opportunity would give us the most minimal visual impact for anyone,” said Howland.
Selectman Randy Parker said, “That’s a perfect spot. It’s out of the way … and it doesn’t get any use for boats, so it’s a good spot to use, actually, if it works.”
The public hearing for the aquaculture license will likely be July 31.
Also during the meeting, Liz Hatch et al. from the Marion Garden Club proposed a town-wide beautification project that would include a new “Welcome to Marion” sign on the property of the Captain Hadley house, and various “lush” landscaping sites around town.
There were some issues pertaining to who owned which of the proposed locations for plantings – the town, the state, or private residents –, which Hatch will have to investigate further. However, the selectmen voiced their support and appreciation for Hatch’s proposal, and even Finance Committee Chairman Alan Minard supported providing Hatch with $3,000 from a supposedly unused $20,000 budget line item that once funded a part-time grant writer and is now included under the line item “Contract Services.”
“We’ll have to look into that,” said Board of Selectmen Chairman Norm Hills.
Town Administrator Paul Dawson said he had a couple issues in his head that he wanted to vet before advising the selectmen, including zoning requirements for signage.
“I don’t imagine it would be a problem,” said Dawson, but it would be safer to investigate before approving the project, he suggested.
In other business, Dawson told the board that there would be no fireworks this Fourth of July in Marion, which is why he says he hasn’t heard much talk about fireworks this year.
Today, the fireworks account only holds exactly $9,548.52, about 20 percent of what is needed to fund the ‘annual’ event.
“Nowhere near the amount necessary,” said Dawson.
The July selectmen’s meeting schedule was changed slightly, with an additional meeting being added for July 31 to prevent too many weeks from passing between meetings. The next meeting after that one will be August 21.
The next meeting of the Marion Board of Selectmen is scheduled for July 10 at 7:00 pm at the Marion police station.
Marion Board of Selectmen
By Jean Perry