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Reading Water and Sewer Rates to Rise in September; Bills Depend on Use

Conservation does save money.

The town’s water and sewer rates are up, to take effect with this coming September’s bill, but the amount that individual bills will increase depends on how much water each resident uses – and how much he or she conserves.

The Board of Selectmen last month approved an 11.4 percent increase in the combined water and sewer rate.

People look at the water and sewer rate as how much more they’ll pay, Assistant Town Manager for Finance Robert LeLacheur told Patch. But your bill equals the rate times your usage, he emphasized.

And Reading as a whole does conserve water, LeLacheur said. The town uses less water, per person, he said, than many communities with it in the Massachusetts Water Resources Authority system.

With questions and comments about the rate increase posed to Patch, LeLacheur spoke with us yesterday about the effect of the rate increase on bills.

The median combined water and sewer bill in Reading right now is $1,200, LeLacheur said. If people who pay that amount use the same amount of water in the coming year, they would pay 11.4 percent more, or a total of $1,338. But if they reduce their water use by five percent, they would pay $1,270, he said. If they use 11 percent less water this coming year, LeLacheur said, their bill would remain $1,200.

The water and sewer rate picture has a number of moving parts. If people use less water than officials anticipate, the town collects less in its water fund. That’s why the selectmen voted last month to use $200,000 from a water reserve fund, and the same amount from a sewer reserve fund, to keep the rate from increasing more significantly next fiscal year.

The funds are also down, LeLacheur told the selectmen, because people are paying their water and sewer bills on time, reducing the fee the town collects on late payments.

The water rate will rise from $8.27 per 100 cubic feet to $8.96 per hundred cubic feet; the sewer rate, from $8.57 to $9.80 per hundred cubic feet.

People have also commented to Patch on the taste and smell of the water, which has been coming from the MWRA since May of 2006.

At that time, the town turned to the MWRA to help meet peak summer water demand, according to Peter Tassi, supervisor of the town’s water quality and supply.

The town started to buy all of its water from the MWRA, instead of the Ipswich River watershed, in September, 2006, Tassi said.

Tassi said he didn’t receive calls about the smell or taste of the water then, or recently.

The smell and taste of the water can change, he said, for several reasons.  Hydrant flushing, for example, which started recently. Or water line flushing, which is done every spring.

Or when the water comes from an open reservoir, like the MWRA supply, rather than underground, as from the town’s former local water source. When the open water gets cold, it becomes denser, and sinks, Tassi said, and water from the bottom of the reservoir rolls up to the surface. Some people are more sensitive than others, he said, to those changes.

Liam Ryan May 30, 2012 at 12:23 PM
Here's the conversion to price per gallon (please correct me if in error)... Current Rate = $0.0225 per gallon. Future Rate = $0.025 per gallon. Assumption: 748 gallon = 100 cubic feet +++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++ Comparison to bottled purified tap water: Desani Brand- one case of 12 liters is priced at Amazon at $6.57 Cost per gallon = $2.07
Rob May 30, 2012 at 12:56 PM
This is ridiculous. If a private utility raised rates by 11%, the attorney general would be all over that. These people are a bunch of crooks.
peter lucci May 30, 2012 at 01:18 PM
Dear Joe Veno, Please read the above article. I truly hope that you are humble enough to apologize for your insistance that the average homeowner's annual bill exceeded $3000 and I disagreed claiming that it was much less than that amount. Please don't go into your usual denial mode or blame someone else (John) for your misinformation. You were so sure that you came up with this gem: "Joe Veno 9:35 pm on Sunday, April 15, 2012 Peter, Just for the record you are wrong." Signed, peter (or who ever I am)
ReadingRockBottom May 30, 2012 at 04:04 PM
Enough with raising taxes! Reading is starting to look horrible. It's not the Reading of the 80's and 90's we loved. Most streets are crumbling like stale cookies, besides those used by folks on their way along Main St or to mega-shoppers-world-mart ( aka Jordan's Furniture, Home Depot, Golf Town, Stop & Shop/MarketBasket etc). The roads are mostly awful. Vine and Bond Streets look like the surface of the moon... craters and asphalt bits everywhere. There is no sidewalk/street lights on Vine street that leads to the commuter rail. People are forced to hug the side of the road or people's lawns in order to ensure that they aren't struck by a passing car. Schools are no better.. What's happening up at the high school lately? How about the house breaks? I would guess there's been over 100 since last May. So go ahead, raise my already high water/sewer rate so that I have even less $ in my pocket and things get worse. Here's an idea for our Selectman, improve the areas that need it most. That new Red Street Sign is so much easier to read than its White predecesor ;) Now people see the name of the busted road they are about to drive down where all the lawns are brown by July because nobody can afford to water their grass and kids are dodging cars from hitting them because they have to walk on the streets. If Reading is going to act like Woburn and try to have the big name businesses (and their tax payments) in town, they better use the money to fix our neighborhoods.
ReadingRockBottom May 30, 2012 at 04:28 PM
To clarify, I understand that it is a "Utility Bill" and not an official "Tax" but lets face it is is very sililar to a tax in that we get charged for it and the rate increases without us, the residents seeing any positive outcome/changes from that increase. They just suggest we use less water. Great idea!! Why didnt we all think of that! In all seriousness, I would bet that the majority of Reading residents already try their best to conserve water, not only for environmental purposes but because we all have seen huge water bills in the past and try to keep them as low as we can. But now that you raise the rate on this, maybe we can just shower every other day or do launry in a washtub outside like back before washing machines existed. How about a bunch of porto potties get set up all over town for residents to share? That's save us some more $$! Get real, Reading Town officials. Most residents aren't stupid. Start showing us something for the $$ we continue to give you or we may just move out and find a new "bedroom community" to live in.
ReadingRockBottom May 30, 2012 at 04:38 PM
See also " The funds are also down, LeLacheur told the selectmen, because people are paying their water and sewer bills on time, reducing the fee the town collects on late payments." So let me get this straight. We use less water than most communities already and we pay our bills on time, and because of this, we are getting an increase in our rate? That makes sense.. See you later.. I am heading back to Earth now because Bizzarro World is making no sense to me.
ReadingRockBottom May 30, 2012 at 04:41 PM
Finally, what did the town do with the $400K this artices says it used from the Water and Sewer funds it decided to use in order to keep the rate from incrasing next year? Ok, now I'm really done commenting.
Rich Heade May 30, 2012 at 06:52 PM
I would like to echo one of your best ideas. PLEASE move out of town. DO find another community. This town doesn't need more whiners, it needs less.
Mr White May 30, 2012 at 08:11 PM
@Rich Heade, do you disagree with anything @ReadingRockBottom is complaining about? While I, too, prefer that if someone believes something is not being done correctly they not only voice their complaint but also a solution. However, voicing the complaint to begin with is a good start. I agree with most of what @RRB has to say and I know solutions are hard to come by but I believe the solutions start with the removal of the folks who've created this mess. Two words: Term Limits!
Rob May 30, 2012 at 08:36 PM
Mr. Heade must have a job thats paid for by the taxpayers.
Bigguy May 30, 2012 at 08:50 PM
I do have many questions that I am hoping to get answers to. I don't understand what the big fuss is all about. It's only an 11.4 % increase.(sarcarsm) Didn't everyone in Reading get a 11.4 % increase at their private or public pay this year? Why stop here? perhaps we should get this violation of our rights over and raise the meal tax and estate taxes while were at it? The issue does not sit well and I don't blame folks on this blog for complaining. Since when has it become the governments job to dictate when to conserve or use something in excess? The last I recall our forefathers fought lost their lives for "Freedom". Freedom is not given it is earned over time and unfortunately we are trending backwards in this state. The MWRA is a state agency and one that we probably shouldn't have made a deal with. The cost is small but like many things in todays world, the increase from the MWRA doesn't resonate to whats going on in the real word. Look at the following states (California, Illinois and NY) its' only a matter of time before we get to be broke like them.
Reading Republican Town Committee May 30, 2012 at 09:21 PM
Chew on this: Reading has an unfunded pension and retiree benefits liability of, I believe, $35 million. So, while hard to swallow, this MWRA rate increase is small potatoes compared to our long-term obligations. As more employees retire and start collecting these benefits, you can expect more of the operating budget being allocated to fund this, pulling money away from regular Town services. Unless we pass a 2 1/2 override. SO we've got THAT to look forward to in the not-too-distant future.
RRB May 31, 2012 at 01:23 AM
Hey, Dick Heade, you know I'm spot on with all of my points so what dont you think before you comment. You know I am right and if you disagree than tell me what the solution is? I'll tell you what it is, it starts with Ignorgant people like you stopping their siding with the town who are basially taking our money and showing is nothing in return. Were you bullied before? Are you afraid of the big bad town not liking what you think so you just agree with them. How's this, if you are ok with what's happening how about you pay my water bill and hold a flashlight behind my kids and my neighbors kids everytime they walk down to the depot to catch a train to work or home? The time for change is now. People need to tell our leaders that we are fed up and elect those who care. That is how I am going to change things. I'll vote an hope it's for a leader who knows what it's like to be left in the dark by the great, swell, super awesome, such a nice town, that we tell everyone else Reading is when in reality it's becoming Woburn faster than Woburn did.
Joe Veno May 31, 2012 at 01:35 PM
Peter, When I say you are a coward for not using your full name I am not ridiculing you.
peter lucci May 31, 2012 at 02:25 PM
There you go with your selective memory again, Joe. Nice to know that you consider 90% of the Patch bloggers to be cowards. You might want to go back and read some of your other negative/nasty comments that you are well known for making. BTW, have you wiped the egg off your face yet, for your latest inaccurate claim?
E May 31, 2012 at 02:34 PM
I just sank an artesian well. $10k well spent. E

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