Photo: Water main being replaced by Belmont DPW
Belmont water and sewer customers will receive a nice surprise as rates for those services will remain steady for the upcoming 2021 fiscal year. This marks consecutive years for water and the third year in which sewer rates will not increase year over year.
And by the new year, customers will be paying those charges monthly as every customer has been fitted with an electronic measuring device.
Department of Public Works Director Jay Marcotte presented the rate proposal before the Select Board at its virtual meeting held Monday, May 11.
Marcotte noted the major cost driver pushing rates higher is due to the annual assessment of the Massachusetts Water Resources Authority, which supplies the town with water and takes its sewage. The MWRA’s water and sewer assessment for fiscal ’21 increased by 1 percent, with most of that growth due to debt held by the agency. Nearly 48.3 percent of Belmont ratepayers water bill comes from the MWRA’s assessment, and 62.7 percent of the sewer payment.
With the planned use of retained earnings to offset the increase, the rates will remain where they are for another year, said Marcotte. The average Belmont homeowner who uses about 3,000 cubic feet of water will see their quarterly bill remain at approximately $440 for fiscal 2021 that begins July 1, 2020.
And by January 2021, that bill will be coming to customers 12 times a year as opposed to quarterly. With the Smartmeter installation program now 99 percent complete, the department can institute monthly billing.
“We’re working with Belmont Light … to streamline and have one bill” going to customers both departments. While moving from a quarterly to monthly payment will likely increase the cost of mailing it out, “monthly billing is our number one ask by customers” as it will be easier for them in their own budgeting.
Marcotte told the board the DPW will continue its quarter-century water improvement program in which all of Belmont’s pre-1928 cast iron mains – which makes up 42 percent or 38 miles of the town’s total – will be replaced.
This year, about 6,970 linear feet of pipe will be removed which will be 31.4 miles of the pre-1928 mains replaced which will result in the program being 82.8 percent complete. Those streets include Chester, Hammond, Fletcher, Van Ness and Gorham.
With the town expected to transfer all its nearly $2 million pavement management line item for fiscal ’21 to balance the town-wide budget, Marcotte said his department will place a more durable temporary asphalt “patch” on the roadway.
The sewer budget will focus on water quality improvement, system upgrades and replacing two pump stations and a new station in the Winn Brook neighborhood with surcharge mitigation improvements.