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March 21. 2013 9:51AM

Sewer billing tops Town Meeting talks

Spirited discussion centered on whether selectmen should look into current billing and collection procedures from the Sewer Department at Pembroke Town Meeting on Saturday, March 16.

Voters also decided to keep the Union Street building and buy several pieces of equipment, along with passing a town budget of $7.68 million.

Sewer bills

Sewer Commissioner Paulette Malo attempted an amendment to force selectmen to change billing practices, but that amendment failed.

The problem? There is a lot more water arriving at the plant Pembroke shares with Allenstown than people are being billed for, causing an outstanding balance for the town of $170,000.

Speaking as a resident, Budget Committee Chairman Gerry Fleury noted that he is on the Capital Improvements for Pembroke (CIP) committee, where he looked at long term budget issues.

“We look at big-ticket items that will have an impact on the tax rate, so we make sure projects get spread out,” he said. “Last year we noted that we weren’t getting much from the Sewer Department and that resulted in discussion among CIP members that our sewer bills continued to rise.”

Fleury mentioned areas of managerial deficiencies within the Sewer Department which he thought were unacceptable.There was also question of how the billing was done and how bills are determined.

“If you look at the sewer customers and all the gallons of water going in, it should roughly be the same amount arriving at the Allenstown plant.” Fleury said, but “the flow meter in Allenstown is showing that there is 20 percent more water arriving at the plant than they’re billing for, which we are all having to pay for.”

Union Street building

Voters were expected to weigh in on whether to put the building at 4-6 Union Street up for sale, but was amended to simply accept accept a report on property, retain ownership of the building, and to ask for the Board of Selectman to review status as needed. The vote was close at 62-58.

Dana Carlucci spoke in favor of retaining the building, noting that it provides parking for the town, social gathering space and $4,000 more per year in rent than required for repairs and maintenance over the past three years.

Level taxes

The meeting started with a look at the town’s property tax rate from 2004-12. The comparison chart showed that the dollar amounts were level over the nine-year span.

“We are the only town entity to cut staff while increasing services,” said Selectman Fred Kline. “I can tell you first-hand that your town government works hard at saving money.”

Since 2004, in spite of huge increases in fuel, insurance, heating costs, retirement and general costs, the town has managed to keep the municipal tax rate relatively flat.

Acknowledgements went to recognize volunteers in various areas of the community. Kline credited the hard work of these volunteers and asked them to stand up and visually show the audience of how much money is continually saved due to dedicated individuals in the town.

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