Water and Sewer rates will likely increase starting in October 2022.
Needham residents may soon need to pay more for water and sewer. On Tuesday, July 26th, the Water and Sewer Rate Structure Committee recommended the Select Board increase the primary water rate by two percent, the irrigation water rate by five percent and the sewer rate as well by five percent, plus add an increase in the sewer basic service of three dollars per quarter. The new rate would take effect on October 1st. The Select Board will vote on the proposed rates at its meeting on August 9th, and if approved the new fees, the average household using 12,000 cubic feet a year will see an increase of 4.7 percent, or about 80 dollars in their bill.
Assistant Town Manager and the Director of Finance David Davidson reminded the board that planned rate increases for fiscal year 2021 and 2022 offsetting the revenue loss from Coca-Cola ending its bottling operation in Needham were not implemented due to Covid. “With all the uncertainty with what Covid was going to do to the economy, certainly at that time, even things as simple as holding public hearings…we weren’t quite certain how that was going to work.”
Needham uses a four-tier rate structure. The revenue generated by the higher tier industrial users like Coca-Cola can subsidize the lower tier residential users. Davidson says the departure of Coca-Cola bottling and the rising costs for operation and maintenance both contribute to the need for a rate increase. “The energy that runs the distribution plants, the treatment plants, the cost of treatment chemicals for the drinking water, the cost of materials… Unlike many of the services that the town delivers which are people-oriented and are other people providing services to the people. This is a very capital intensive service. Water and sewer lines are expensive to repair, replace and maintain, and the materials for doing that work, as well as the work–whether it’s private contractors or our own staff–the cost has gone up.
Water and Sewer Rate Structure Committee chair John Tallarico said, after evaluating several different scenarios, the committee thought the recommended structure proposing uniform percentage increases across all tiers was a reasonable approach. “What you have before you is really an extensive discussion between the committee (on) the various combinations. We felt the impact was evenly spread across the residents of Needham and essentially unanimously concluded that the recommendation before you is the one we were all on board with.”