PEPPERELL -- Pepperell residents will see a 2 percent increase in water and sewer rates next year.

That increase is smaller than those for the last three years, which ranged from 8 to 9.5 percent between 2011 and 2013.

For the average household, the yearly cost for water is estimated to be $405, and sewer is estimated at $788.

The increases will help to fund a capital plan to address maintenance needs that the department of public works has been putting off for years, according to DPW Director Ken Kalinowski.

"We had a long list of deferred maintenance items that have been deferred for years. They should have been in the budget but weren't to keep costs down. So it basically artificially suppressed the rates. This year we incorporated many of those items into the budget where they belong," Kalinowski said.

"We're going to be doing more long-term planning and putting things into the budget that need to be done on a regular basis, which will ultimately save money in the long run."

Kalinowski said he is estimating that the water and sewer departments will each spend an average of $150,000 a year on capital improvements.

These include projects such as clearing out water and sewer easements, cleaning and repainting water tanks and improvements to pumping stations.

"We are not alone in having to have adjusted our rates to cover these costs. Virtually every water/sewer utility in the country is experiencing this in some fashion," Kalinowski said. "The board is trying to establish a nominal, well thought out, progressive rate structure. They don't like playing catch up in one big hit. Now that we know what the needs are, we can start planning for them to help keep rates in control," he said.

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