Biddeford property owners will see increased sewer fees, following a vote of the city council Sept. 15. The increase is retroactive to July 1. Journal Tribune file photo/Dina Mendros

BIDDEFORD — Property owners in Biddeford will see an increase in their sewer rates in their next bill. The increases are retroactive to July 1.

Residential rates will increase 2.3 percent; commercial, 2.8 percent; and a new category, residential multi-unit, will increase 10 percent, according to a fee schedule released by the city.

With the revised rates, city officials say  six-unit building with quarterly billing would see an increase of $18.81 per unit.

Properties in which the owner lives in one of the units of a multi-family building will be considered a part of the residential category.

The average family of four in a single-family home can expect to see an annual increase of $13.72, based on quarterly billing, according to documents on file with the city.

The City Council voted on the increase Sept. 15, with Mayor Alan Casavant breaking a tie vote in favor of the increase. Those in favor included Councilors William Emhiser, Stephen St. Cyr, Norman Belanger and Michael Ready. Those opposed were Councilors Marc Lessard, Robert Quattrone, John McCurry, and Doris Ortis. Councilor Amy Clearwater was absent.

Until now, the city had been inconsistent in how multi-unit residences were billed, City Manager James Bennett said. In a July briefing to the City Council, he said some had been billed at a residential rate, others at a commercial rate. At that time, the council tabled the discussion.

Earlier this year, the City Council adopted a budget that has a 5 percent increase in user fees, generating an additional $154,000 in revenue. Had the fee structure not changed, Bennett said, it would not generate the amount of money needed.

Residential billing is 62 percent of the revenue, generating $2.3 million with the rest, $1.4 million, from commercial accounts.

Sewer users pay a base rate, and then a rate for the amount of water used. After a certain amount of water usage is reached, the rate for additional water usage decreases.

Councilor Lessard said multi-unit buildings should pay a per unit base fee, but he did not want people to pay more for usage depending on where they live. His motion to that effect was defeated.

“I have a hard time increasing the multi-family 10 percent,” said Councilor Ortiz. “Maybe we have to table this.”

Casavant pointed out that the fee is retroactive to July 1, and tabling the issue would push the decision out even further.

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