Mashpee Sewer Commission In Dire Need Of Members
By: Brian Kehrl
Already short five members, the Mashpee Sewer Commission has lost another longtime member, leaving the group in charge of shepherding the town’s comprehensive wastewater treatment plan without a quorum at a critical juncture.
Matthew T. Berrelli, who joined the commission in 2005, is no longer living in Mashpee and therefore cannot remain on the commission, according to Mr. Berrelli and commission Chairman F. Thomas Fudala.
Mr. Fudala is now the lone member of the commission, which was expanded from three to seven members by Town Meeting last October. Donald R. Desmarais resigned earlier this year, so there are six open positions on the group. “Everything is on hold now. I was hoping to be done by the end of the year. But I just don’t know when we will have a full commission or a quorum’s worth of a commission to get back to work,” Mr. Fudala said.
The loss of Mr. Berrelli forced the cancellation of the commission’s meeting this month, and the group cannot hold another formal meeting until at least three more members volunteer to provide a quorum of four.
The commission is, at this point in time, one of the most important boards or committees in Mashpee, as it is laying out a plan expected to cost taxpayers several hundred million dollars over the coming years and hoped to reverse the decline in water quality in the town’s estuaries.
Town officials have begun a full-fledged recruiting effort, Town Manager Joyce M. Mason said this week, sending out targeted letters to prospective members and posting a notice inviting applications from all interested residents. Under the restructuring passed at Town Meeting, each of the town’s five electoral precincts must be represented on the commission, and two members can be at-large.
“We really need to move on this. We cannot wait any longer,” Ms. Mason said of the comprehensive plan.
The commission is in the midst of developing a plan to upgrade wastewater treatment facilities throughout town, an effort aimed at reducing the amount of nitrogen that leaches from septic systems into the groundwater and eventually to Popponesset and Waquoit bays. Much of the background work for the plan has been completed, and before Mr. Berrelli’s departure, the commission was in the process of selecting sites to discharge wastewater treated by the new sewage treatment plants planned to be built.
Mr. Fudala said he met recently with representatives of New Seabury Country Club to solicit their thoughts on the possibility of locating a treated water discharge system, known as drip irrigation, under the golf course there. A similar meeting was planned with representatives of Willowbend this week.
Mr. Fudala said the New Seabury site in particular is important, because it is the only area in town where water released in the ground runs directly into Nantucket Sound, rather than the bays.
Being able to use New Seabury could therefore mean less sewering overall in town, a less costly project, and quicker improvement in the water quality of bays, he said.
“I can be working on that with [the project’s engineering consultants], but I can’t officially pick those sites without a full commission to say go ahead. That is significant, deciding where we want to discharge,” he said. Once the plan, which has been a decade or so in the making, is finalized by the consultants and the sewer commission, it will be presented to selectmen and must be approved by Town Meeting.
“It just, it feels very familiar. We are all of a sudden at a standstill again,” Mr. Fudala said. “It took a year and a half to get those scenarios through [the Massachusetts Estuaries Project] model. It took three years before waiting to get the [Total Maximum Daily Load] result. We have had these massive stoppages in our work. Four and a half years in the last six years. And now we have another one just as we were getting going again.” Mr. Berrelli said, “It’s disappointing because we are at the best part of this whole project. So I am still going to be active, as active as I can be. But I am not going to be a commissioner.”
Mr. Berrelli said this week that he moved out of his home in Mashpee several months ago, and moved in with his fiancée in Bourne. He had continued to serve on the commission, under the impression that as long as he owned property in town, he could remain a member. While some town boards and committees allow nonresident membership, however, the sewer commission does not. So when residents renting his former home in south Mashpee went to town hall to pick up a transfer station permit, the town clerk noticed the change and removed Mr. Berrelli from the commission.
“It is a simple problem we have and a very solvable one. But it is going to be expensive. The concept of what we are treating is something that has been dealt with by nature for ages. Sometimes it is the old tried and true methods that work best. You don’t always need to build a better mousetrap.” Anyone wishing to join the commission should contact the selectmen’s office in Mashpee Town Hall, at 508-539-4700, extension 510.
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