Colchester is asking the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency for up to eight years to complete a large-scale sewer project.
The city has two options to pay for the $4.2 million project.
If the city qualifies for loans and grants through the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Rural Development program, the project might be completed in four years.
If the project qualifies for grants through the EPA the project might take eight years. That's because the city could only apply every other year.
Mayor Danny Bice says the city must look out for the interests of its residents. Many are on fixed incomes and can't afford extreme rate hikes to pay for the project.
He says, “To me, we're better off to span it out over the eight year or nine years. Because then we can gradually increase instead of jumping $4 or $5 every year for the next four years.”
Typically, 20% of the city's sewer customers are behind on their payments. The city disconnects three or four customers each month for non-payment. Bice says rate hikes would make the situation worse.
On average, residents pay $25 per month. If the city finances the project through the USDA, that could increase to between $40 and $50 per month.