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Selectmen hike bills for homeowners Saturday, June 18, 2005
David McLaughlin 508-626-4338 Metrowest Daily News
FRAMINGHAM -- Homeowners will see increases of about $80 on average in their next water and sewer bills after selectmen approved new rates and floated a plan to jack up the bills of those living in apartments.

Selectmen approved the new rates that will boost combined water and sewer costs for the average homeowner by 11 percent for fiscal 2006. The typical bill, according to the town, will be about $842, up from $759, a jump that still keeps Framingham well below prices among other communities that are part of the Massachusetts Water Resources Authority's system.

Before approving the new rates Thursday night, the board debated adopting a different rate structure that would have hit apartment buildings of five or more units with significantly larger bills.

"It's bringing a fairness to the system that hasn't been there," Selectman Ginger Esty said. Esty and Selectman Dennis Giombetti voted for the change, while the other three members voted against it.  If it had been approved, apartments with five units would have seen an increase of about $660, while 1620 Worcester Road, a 300-unit apartment building, would see the water and sewer bills skyrocket by almost $400,000.

Single-family homeowners, meanwhile, would have seen their bills go up $7 instead of the $83 jump they now face.

Selectman Charlie Sisitsky warned that the huge increases for apartments would be passed on to tenants in the buildings.  He argued it would not be fair to suddenly revamp the formula, making it difficult for tenants to budget for the bigger bills.

"The landlords are not going to eat that increase," he said.

The town is studying the overall rate structure for water and sewer.  Town Manager George King said its consultant would also look at placing a greater burden on owners of apartment buildings.

King told the board Thursday night that he was "nervous" about adopting the change Esty pushed for.

"Rate setting is always a very complicated endeavor," he said yesterday. "It's not my expertise or the town accountant's expertise.  Though I was confident it would work, it always make you nervous."

The increasing rates are a combination of rising MWRA assessments and the town's investment in their own infrastructure.  The new combined water and sewer rate is $7.02 per unit, or 748 gallons of water.

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