In response to residents seeking clarification on the ballot questions, Falmouth selectmen Monday night agreed to include presentations on the two big ticket ballot initiatives at the May 5 meeting of the board of selectmen.
“We know these issues inside and out, but many people are looking for a better explanation and a cost breakdown per household of the projects,” said selectman Rebecca Moffitt at Monday night’s selectmen’s meeting. She referred to recent letters to the editor of the Enterprise from residents seeking more education on the water and wastewater questions.
Chairman Brent V.W. Putnam suggested the head of the department of public works, members of the water quality management committee and Falmouth’s finance director be present to answer public questions next week.
Question 1 will ask voters to approve a $49.8 million comprehensive wastewater management plan, including widening the inlet to Bournes Pond, installing sewers to houses surrounding Little Pond, upgrading the current wastewater treatment plant, and making improvements to the sewer mains in Woods Hole.
Question 2 seeks approval of $46.5 million for the design and construction of a water treatment/filtration system. The project’s cost will be split evenly between water rates and a tax levy, although the tax rate will not increase because the town is retiring other debt.
Both projects need voter approval on May 20 as debt exclusions from Proposition 2 1/2.
During the public comment period at Monday’s meeting, Alma Road resident Edward F. Jalowiec spoke out about the lack of information given to residents living in neighborhoods surrounding Little Pond.
If question 1 passes, homeowners living near Little Pond will pay for the sewer project through betterments, based on a 30-year interest free loan.
“I have an 88-year-old neighbor who is wondering why surveyors are on her property. She had no idea about the sewer project. I think the town should have done some public outreach to those of us directly affected. I ask the board to hold an informational meeting with town engineers and staff before the election,” Mr. Jalowiec said.
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In addition to next Monday’s presentations, selectmen are considering mailing informational flyers with the sewer project details to homeowners in the betterment area before the town-wide election.
“They should be informed if we are asking them to pay for 70 percent of the sewer project,” said Mr. Putnam. He also said the homeowners should be aware of the eco-toilet alternative to connecting to the town sewer. Governor Deval L. Patrick recently signed legislation exempting homeowners in Falmouth with eco-toilets from sewer-associated betterment costs. Installation of the toilets ranges in price, but residents can apply to the town for a grant to mitigate costs. A urine-diverting toilet costs about $1,500.
Although all the details have not been ironed out yet, the board is adding the presentations and time for public questions to the agenda for the next Monday, May 5, meeting of the board of selectmen. The meeting begins at 7 PM at the Falmouth Town Hall.