Residents in the Duxbury beach area need to prepare themselves for a huge increase in their annual sewer bill, as selectmen voted to more than double the rate this week. Residents in the Duxbury beach area need to prepare themselves for a huge increase in their annual sewer bill, as selectmen voted to more than double the rate this week.

Acting as Water and Sewer Commissioners, the Board of Selectmen this week voted 2-0 to increase the minimum annual charge for Duxbury residents who use the Marshfield sewer treatment plant from $383 to $769 annually. This increase surpasses the recommendation of a 54 percent hike to $590 annually by Department of Public Works Director Tom Daley and Water Superintendent Paul Anderson.

After discussions with Daley and Anderson, selectmen learned that Duxbury beach residents have not been picking up the full amount it costs to provide them with sewer services for two reasons. First, Marshfield has been charging Duxbury more than the users have been paying, creating a deficit of almost $25,000 in the 2006 fiscal year budget. Second, the cost of Duxbury's maintenance of the sewer system has never been included in the sewer user fee.

There are 194 houses in the northern Duxbury beach area that are connected to the Marshfield sewer system. The two towns have had a contract for this service for 30 years. Marshfield bills Duxbury and the water department bills the beach residents.

Over the past three years, charges from Marshfield have been higher than what Duxbury has collected from the sewer users. In fiscal year 2004, the town lost over $12,000. In FY05, it lost almost $800 and in FY06 it had a $24,546 deficit. In FY06 Marshfield charged Duxbury $114,798, while Duxbury charged its residents only $90,252.

For the current fiscal year 2007, Daley estimated charges from Marshfield to be approximately $130,000 but was told by that town's officials to expect a bill closer to $162,000.

In light of this information and the $25,000 deficit, selectmen felt Daley's recommendation of $590 annual fee based on 40,000 gallons of water usage came up short. They felt the sewer users should pay for every cost associated with the system.

"I think this is grossly low," said Selectman Andre Martecchini said of Daley's recommended fee.

"I also have a problem with the $25,000 deficit," he added.

Selectmen Chairwoman Betsy Sullivan agreed: "If we get back every cent we were billed, it's still not a pass-through."

"That, to me, is a huge problem," said Martecchini.

While Martecchini said the large increase might seem unfair to the beach homeowners, he felt that, "they've gotten a subsidized ride."

"We have stuck it to the Bay Road shared septic people," he pointed out in comparison. "We have billed them for every single penny." Taxpayers should not have to cover the deficit between Marshfield charges and Duxbury revenues, he said.

Fiscal Advisory Committee Chairman Frank Mangione told selectmen his committee looked at Daley's proposed $590 fee and thought the FY06 deficit should be recouped but felt that the "fifty-four percent increase was an enormous jump all by itself." He said his committee had never reviewed the sewer fees before.

Martecchini told Daley that this fee needs to be looked at each year and adjusted to cover any deficit between costs and revenues.

Selectmen asked Daley how much it costs him to maintain the sewer system and then pulled out their calculators to come up with the $769 minimum annual charge. It is based on the FY06 $114,798 charge from Marshfield, the $24,546 FY06 deficit and the approximately $11,000 it costs Duxbury annually to maintain the system.

The $769 will be divided in half and billed semi-annually, so the first bill that was supposed to be mailed in November but will be mailed soon will have a charge of $384.50 plus a charge of $3.50 per 1,000 gallons over the 20,0000 gallons allowed semi-annually.

The 30-year sewer contract with Marshfield ends in May, and Daley has begun negotiations with officials there. In an effort to control costs, he agreed to lower the amount Duxbury has had reserved in the sewer system from 150,0000 gallons per day to 40,000 gallons per day. Daley said in a typical year, Duxbury residents only use 25,000-30,0000 gallons a day, so agreeing to a maximum of 40,000 would leave a little extra in the system.

Selectmen were wary about agreeing to give away Duxbury's reserve until Daley did enough research to make sure the 40,0000 gallons a day would serve the area at its maximum build-out capacity. Most of the area contains summer homes, but some people live there year round and there is a trend toward more homes being converted to year-round residences. More year-round residents would use more sewer capacity.

"Before we were to give it away, we do need to make this analysis," said Martecchini.