''One of the concerns is that for elderly and lower-income folks, it was going to be an undue hardship on them,'' Town Councilor Fred Pugliese said of rate increases approved in July.
The initiative, called the Lifeline Discount Program, was approved Aug. 13 and will be open to qualified applicants, including an estimated 150 homeowners who have already met age and income requirements for fuel assistance programs and property tax breaks.
''What we did was survey communities that offer a similar type of program,'' said Phyllis Marshall, the town's purchasing agent.
Working with an outside consultant, officials identified 20 such cities and towns, including Framingham and Natick, in crafting their plan. Watertown residents who are not eligible for the discount can expect to pay slightly higher bills, although officials are still determining the amount.
The cost to the town will range from $50,000 to $70,000, but Pugliese said the expense will be worthwhile.
''I think it was an important program for us to implement,'' he said. ''The people who have the most critical need will be able to get the discount.''
In Newton, residents over 65 can apply for a 30 percent discount under a similar program.
Residents in many communities will soon face higher water and sewer bills due to acting Governor Jane Swift's veto of $16 million in sewer rate relief.
Wellesley can expect to pay an additional $166,000, while Needham will pay an extra $192,000.
Source: Boston Globe