When he’s asked about Wiscasset Water District’s arrangement with Edgecomb for handling wastewater, Superintendent Chris Cossette answered with one sentence: “We don’t have one.”
The reason, he explained, is the water district’s only involvement with wastewater in Edgecomb is that it prepares and processes the billing for Edgecomb’s use of Wiscasset’s wastewater treatment facility.
Cossette explained in a recent interview with the Boothbay Register that the water district prepares and mails bills for water and sewer use for the approximately 65 customers living in the Davis Island section of Edgecomb. The charges are based on the usage shown on meters at the Edgecomb properties. WWD personnel read the meters.
This administrative procedure has been in place with Edgecomb for almost 15 years, with Edgecomb paying the water district a fee to provide billing and processing services. The fee is based on the number of customers and is currently $1,600 annually for 65-70 customers. The fee is paid by the town, not by the individual user.
In 2005, when a tax increment financing (TIF) district was created to fund the installation of water and sewer lines from Davis Island to Wiscasset for a proposed housing development, Wiscasset Water District agreed to provide the billing service. While the sewer collection line from Edgecomb to Wiscasset is owned by Edgecomb, the other sewer lines that service Davis Island properties are privately owned.
Edgecomb residents using the town’s sewer line receive a bill from Wiscasset Water District that shows charges for water and sewer individually. They pay the total of both amounts to WWD, which then collects the funds and sends a check for the wastewater portion to Edgecomb. The process is much like a third-party company that handles billing for physicians’ offices.
The agreement could be terminated by either party, with six months’ notice. If the agreement ever ended, it could mean Edgecomb is faced with the additional expense of installing and reading water meters, billing customers and collecting payments.
As Cossette explained the administrative function, “We already do the billing for the water district; we have the software and equipment as well as the water meters for it.” The water district provides the same sewer billing function for Wiscasset.
Edgecomb has recently seen a 14% increase in its wastewater fees – from $27.36 per 300 cubic feet to $31.20 per 300 cubic feet – because it previously agreed to be billed at the same rate as Wiscasset users and those rates were raised in July.
As a result, Edgecomb is now faced with addressing the difference between the amount currently paid by its residents and the amount billed to it by Wiscasset.
Edgecomb selectmen will continue to discuss the price increase and have invited Cossette to their next meeting, at 6 p.m. Monday, Nov. 4 at the town office.
As head of the water district for the past 16 years, Cossette’s view spans its history as well as plans for the future. With 25 miles of pipe, WWD receives its water from Bath Water District and is billed in much the same way Edgecomb is billed by Wiscasset.
“They were so smart 100 years ago,” Cossette said about how the water system was designed. “They planned for this.” The challenge now is to plan for the next 100 years. Toward that end, WWD has just completed the last of 18 improvement projects over 10 years that have replaced all of the 100-plus-year-old pipe.
WWD is a member of the 5 Rivers Regional Waters Council, an organization of area water districts that work collaboratively to make sure increasing water needs are met. “As a regional entity, we are looking at what we need to do for the future system,” and a discussion of future water needs “should also be in each town’s comprehensive plan,” Cossette said.
For now, however, WWD and Edgecomb continue to rely on each other in a cooperative arrangement that bills Edgecomb for wastewater and provides water for the 60-some residents of Davis Island.