By Beth David, Editor
The Acushnet Selectboard heard from Woodard & Curran at its meeting on Tuesday, 2/19/19, to get a sense of what is involved in getting the town hooked up to sewer. Only a few hundred properties, from the center of town and along South Main Street are hooked up to a sewer line that goes to the New Bedford treatment plant. The vast majority of properties in Acushnet have private septic systems.
The town has been working for several years to create a Comprehensive Wastewater Management Plan (CWMP), and has systematically ben working towards that goal.
At the meeting on 2/19, W&C presented different areas of town, each containing 300-320 properties that would get sewer. The problem is that the cost for the sewer hookup, called a “betterment fee,” that homeowners would be required to pay is into the $30,000 to $40,000 range.
The way the system works is that homeowners pay for the pipe to go by their homes when the system is initially built. Low interest loans are available, and other options for payment are also available for seniors and low income households. But, there’s no getting around it: Running sewer line is expensive.
The state has been urging all cities and towns to create a CWMP. Septic systems are no longer a viable option for a number of reasons, most importantly that they discharge too much nitrogen into the soil. Nitrogen contaminates waterways, underground water systems, and the state has been enforcing ever-tighter restrictions on nitrogen discharge.
The town of Acushnet has an ownership stake in the New Bedford Wastetwater Treatment Plant (NBWTP), so any sewer lines would go there for treatment.
According to Town Administrator Brian Noble, the town will try to get rid of septic systems wherever possible.
“Septic systems are not the way to go into the future,” said Mr. Noble in a phone interview.
The initial design cost alone is about $1.2 million he said; then the cost of construction, which will be paid for by individual homeowners; then homeowners will be required to pay a water and sewer fee.
The town will embark on a public education campaign this summer, or late spring. The plan is to get public input, figure out a plan, and then get the design phase started. Town Meeting will have to approve the spending.
The board also discussed use of the enterprise funds, which are separate accounts with funds from water and sewer ratepayers, and golf course users.
The state has started pressuring municipalities to more realistically assess the types of services that departments with enterprise funds get from the operating budget. For example, the water department salaries are prepared by the finance department in town hall, now by the water department. The money for the amount of time that requires should be transferred from the enterprise fund, according to the state. Enterprise funds money should not, however, be used for unaffiliated costs, i.e., water enteprise funds should only be used for water department costs, golf fund should be used only for the golf course, etc.
Mr. Noble created a list of areas that the enterprise funds could assigned to pay for. The board did not vote for any changes.
In another matter, the board also discussed a plan by a developer to build 14 houses off Maura Lane. The board said it would require the developer to construct Maura Lane, which is a paper street, and to bring water to the development and the houses that exist along the route.
The board also discused the Senior Work-Off program, which allows senior citizens to work off a portion of their property tax bills, by working at town jobs. Mr. Noble was directed to come up with a list of opportunities and spell out the requirements for participation in the program. It will be listed on the town’s website.
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