Water, sewer fees rise in town of Pomfret districts

OBSERVER Photo by Greg Fox The Pomfret Town Board recently voted, 3-2, to decrease the minimum quarterly usage amount from 10,000 gallons to 5,000 gallons for water districts supplied by Fredonia as a way to raise needed revenue. Pictured, from left: Councilmen Christopher Schaeffer and John Sedota and Supervisor Donald Steger.

Water and sewer usage fees in the town of Pomfret districts supplied by the village of Fredonia are on the rise once again.

During a recent meeting, the town board narrowly voted, 3-2, to decrease the minimum quarterly usage amount from 10,000 gallons to 5,000 gallons, with councilmen Christopher Schaeffer and John Sedota opposed.

Supervisor Donald Steger — who voted in favor of the proposal alongside Councilman Brett Christy and Councilwoman Ann Eckman — noted the decrease is needed to curb financial hemorrhaging in the district funds.

“Basically right now, we have a $50 minimum charge for (up to the first) 10,000 gallons of water,” Steger explained. “After discussion and going back and forth, we kind of determined that we need to lower the gallon amount on that. We’ll leave the minimum charge at $50 and make it based on the first 5,000 gallons, because we have a number of customers who don’t even reach the 10,000-gallon plateau.”Ten thousand gallons costs more than $50. (Residents who used less than that amount) were making out, costing us money. We’re operating quarterly at a deficit currently.”

Steger added water consumption isn’t what it used to be, what with water conservation methods and devices being integrated into households.

In addition to decreasing the minimum usage amount, the board — by a unanimous vote — proportionally increased water and sewer rates to meet contractual obligations with Fredonia, which recently hiked its own rates by a significant amount. The increase in Pomfret is necessary since the town must absorb the village hike, Steger pointed out; the town pays the village 1.7 times the village rate, making the new town rate over $8 per thousand gallons.

“So, any water loss, any fire protection that happens, any hydrant flushing, any leakage, it’s too close of a scenario,” Steger said. “We can’t allow these funds to be depleted.”

Schaeffer questioned the need for the change in the minimum usage amount and asked if the water rate could simply be bumped up a little more instead. Steger did not think that was an option, however.

“Even if you increase the rate and they don’t reach the minimum 10,000 gallons, the new rate doesn’t apply to them, so it still costs us more for their 10,000 gallons, but they aren’t contributing any more toward it,” he told Schaeffer.

Schaeffer still was not comfortable with the proposal.

“To me, it seems like a significant bump,” Schaeffer remarked. “So a lot of people that were paying the minimum are now going to be paying more (on their consumption). It just seems like the solution seems arbitrary.”

Sedota stated he would like to see concrete projections before giving his blessing to the change in the minimum usage amount. Steger said he has not worked out the exact numbers yet, but he knows that what is being charged now is insufficient.

Christy mentioned that since the village has raised its rates “exponentially,” the town has to pay that much more for water without being reimbursed by the users, which is why the fees must be adjusted.

The Van Buren Bay Water District — which is not supplied by Fredonia — already has a $50 minimum charge for the first 5,000 gallons of water.

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