An Important Precedent Established
The Public Utilities Commission, of Maine, has made public its decision in the matter of certain increases in water rates proposed by the Lincoln Water Company. This was an investigation instituted by the Commission on its own motion as to the reasonableness of the proposed changes. The company filed certain increases to private consumers, and also a schedule proposing an increase in hydrant rental to the town of Lincoln from $1,500 to $4,000 for the first thirty hydrants and from $25 to $50 for each additional hydrant. The Commission suspended both the proposed schedules for a term of three months and a public hearing was held on the case on December 2, 1918. The town had a contract which provided that the water company should construct a reservoir and lay certain mains, as therein specified, and furnish pressure for fire hydrants, water for two wateringtroughs, for all school houses and the cemetery, for all of which it was to receive $1,500 per annum, payable semi-annually, and $25 per year additional for each hydrant in excess of thirty, and in addition thereto on September 30th, annually, “such a sum as said town may have assessed against and collected from said company in taxes for that municipal year.” The contract also named the maximum rates to be charged for domestic service. The commission finds that the terms of the contract under conditions now existing do not allow a fair profit on the company’s investment and decrees that the proposed domestic rates shall be enforced. It disapproves the proposed raise in hydrant rentals but allows an increase amounting to about one-half of that proposed. The new rates become effective April 1. As fixed by the commission they will give a net return of only 4.4 per cent., which is deemed less than a fair return, but all that the circumstances warrant.