MILFORD — Milford Town Council again faced an onslaught of pointed questions from residents at its monthly meeting Monday evening, July 9. Many in the packed meeting room had come to voice concerns about the proposed extension of wastewater service to Camp Alexander Mack; however, citizens’ ire was further aroused by the possibility of another utility rate increase.
Ross Hagen, an accountant from Umbaugh and Associates, was in attendance at the request of the board to discuss proposed rate studies of both water and sewer, which would cost $6,500 each. The studies, he said, would include analysis of expenses — included costs of capital projects like the one currently underway at the wastewater plant — in relation to expected revenue.
Citing previous studies conducted by Umbaugh within the last three years, Milford resident Ken Long wanted to know, “What did you miss?”
Hagen answered it was not unusual for towns to conduct studies every few years. “Inflation happens, costs go up … it’s not out of the ordinary.”
Rate studies were conducted in 2015, prior to a water rate increase, and in 2016, prior to a wastewater rate increase phased-in over two years.
Long also asked when the current rates will be listed on the town’s website, which still reflects billing practices from 2011. “There’s no excuse for that,” he insisted.
“The website is not an official record,” responded Town Attorney Jay Rigdon. The town’s new website is administered by Town Marshal Travis Marsh; Milford does not employ an information technology expert. Marsh is currently on vacation, but Town Clerk Joellen Free said the website would be updated as soon as possible.
Milford resident Jay Urbin was among those vehemently opposed to any rate hike. “Where does it end?” he asked, citing the previous hikes. “You’re gouging the citizens of Milford.”
The council voted to table the rate study vote for the August meeting. In response to requests from residents, Hagen was asked to provide information comparing Milford’s rates to those of other towns.
A report dated Dec. 8, 2016, prior to the phased-in rate hike, projected Milford’s wastewater rates, based on usage of 4,000 gallons, would be $45.84 per month. That same year, Syracuse residents paid $32.27; Goshen, $34.75; Walkerton, $48.07; Etna Green, $62.78.
On the other hand, Milford’s raised water rate, based on 4,000 gallons usage for a two-month billing period, brought it to $24.85, roughly even with Goshen and less than Syracuse, $29.10 and Cromwell, $36.19.
Updated numbers are expected to be available at the August meeting.
Council member Dan Cochran empathized with Urbin’s opinion. “There’s some truth to staying within our budgets.” Referring to the proposed 8 percent increase in the 2019 budget, he stated, “We’re not being fiscally responsible.”
Council member Bob Cockburn suggested more people attend budget meetings, open to the public but rarely attended.
“We went for quite a few years without raising rates. It’s caught up with us,” he added.
Steven Marquart, water operator and street superintendent, pointed out some of Milford’s water lines are 118 years old. “I haven’t asked for a line job in two years,” he stated. Furthermore, according to Marquart, there are areas of town without water mains. “People ask me, ‘why don’t I have any water volume?'” Such problems, he commented, could influence a business’ decision to locate in Milford.
There have been no new developments in the proposed Camp Mack sewer line. According to council President Doug Ruch, the council is waiting to hear from Camp Mack, which is reviewing its options.