Hatfield Select Board passes 25% sewer rate hike

  • Hatfield Town Hall.

Staff Writer
Published: 2/19/2020 3:02:44 PM

HATFIELD — A 25% increase in the sewer rate approved by the Select Board this week will allow Hatfield to pursue a federal grant and low-interest loans to make what could be $10 to $12 million in improvements to the town’s wastewater treatment system.

The board voted 3-0 Tuesday to raise both the sewer and water rates immediately, with the adjustment affecting the bills that will go out in the fall based on meter readings that start this spring.

As a result of the increases, the typical residential sewer and water customer will pay at least $130 more for the services annually.

Chairman Brian Moriarty said he supported the increase because Hatfield should have wastewater treatment and municipal water systems that continue to function well.

“We need to take care of our infrastructure and look to the future,” Moriarty said.

A U.S. Department of Agriculture loan can be sought in the near future as a result of the rate changes.

“We have an obligation to not just be putting out fires, but being proactive about this stuff,” said board member Diana Szynal.

The approval of a 25% jump for the sewer rate means going from $7.11 per 100 cubic feet to $8.89 per 100 cubic feet, costing the average household user an additional $9.40 a month. That would mean a household with a typical bill of $454 per year would see that rise to $567.

There are 767 households on town sewers.

Syznal said the rate increase positions the town to expand the sewer system, potentially reaching to new customers and to eventually incentivize tie-ins for a sewer expansion.

In voting in favor of the increases, board member Edmund Jaworski said the other option would be to kick the can down the road and force the next generation of residents to handle needed upgrades.

“It’s got to be done eventually,” Jaworski said. “What are the cheaper costs right now? The cheaper costs are to go for the USDA loan.”

The 5% increase for the water rate means it will go from $4.45 per 100 cubic feet to $4.67 per 100 cubic feet, adding an additional $1.70 per month for the average household user.

The water rate change is smaller, in part because there are more limited capital needs, including some water main replacement, water main construction, and upgrades to Omasta Well totaling $6 million. There are also many more users, with 1,345 customers getting municipal water.

The recommendations for the new rates, which are significantly higher than the customary 2% annual adjustments, came from a study completed by DPC Engineering LLC of Longmeadow.

DPC President David Prickett said the new rates put Hatfield in a position to get a USDA loan for replacing and repairing pipes that may be pushing 100 years old and renovating the wastewater treatment plant that is around 40 years old. Those projects could cost up to $32 million over time, and $10 to $12 million in the near term.

Prickett said USDA requires that the rates be set at more than 1% of median household income to qualify for the program.

While a handful of residents came to the hearing, the board didn’t receive any comments opposing raising the rates. Moriarty said the topic of improving the wastewater and water systems has been discussed at numerous meetings over the past several years.

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