MANCHESTER -- Town residents were warned at the beginning of the month to expect a bit of sticker shock when they opened their water and sewer bills.
"Sticker shock?" said Augusta Road resident Pat Wallman. "This is more like cardiac arrest."
A whole lot of folks are clutching their chests as they ponder significantly higher bills that are due today.
A standing-room-only crowd of nearly 90 residents came to Town Hall last night to complain of water and sewer bills that have doubled -- or tripled -- for families and businesses.
The new rates -- passed in May and designed to encourage water conservation -- kicked in for water used in April, May and June. Residents received the bills July 2.
If bills remain unpaid after July 30, water service will be disconnected.
The cost of providing water and sewer service to the town almost doubled, from $336,000 last year to almost $619,000 this year.
Those costs increased because the bills for the town's share of the $11 million sewage treatment plant are coming due, town officials said.
The meeting last night erupted almost into anarchy, as people shouted when Town Council members and the mayor tried to answer questions.
"You're killing your town," Ms. Wallman said.
"What this is going to do is put me out of business," said Fred Burns, owner of Ultra Clean laundry on Main Street. His water bill jumped from $852 to $3,319.
Mr. Burns said he will raise the amount he charges up to $1 a load to help make up for the difference.
Jagtar Singh, owner of the House of Pasta, said his bill jumped from $504 to $2,072.
Residential bills also jumped far more than residents had been led to expect. Officials had predicted that annual water and sewer levies would jump from $307 to $407.
"This is going to become a ghost town if this continues," said Roxanne Fitzgerald, another Augusta Road resident who, with Ms. Wallman, collected 325 signatures protesting the new rates.
Town officials agreed to schedule a meeting at 7:30 p.m. July 23 to discuss possible alternatives.