Falmouth Selectmen Assess Ballymeade Homeowners Fee

Robert Sanborn, Ballymeade resident, speaking out against the capital improvement fee at Monday night's board of selectmen meeting.
CARRIE GENTILE/ENTERPRISE - Robert Sanborn, Ballymeade resident, speaking out against the capital improvement fee at Monday night's board of selectmen meeting.

After a discussion that spanned over several recent Falmouth Board of Selectmen meetings, selectmen voted to require Ballymeade residents to pay a capital improvement fee beginning May 2015.

The protracted Ballymeade water pressure issue took center stage at the May 19 board of selectmen meeting, with the town and Ballymeade residents unable to see eye-to-eye.

After a unanimous 4-0 vote, members of the Ballymeade Property Owners Association (BPOA) said they would try to reverse the decision at the next Town Meeting. Selectman Mary (Pat) Flynn was absent.

“This is an ethical dilemma. I am sympathetic to your situation, but it’s the law and I was sworn to uphold the actions voted on at Town Meeting,” chairman Brent V.W. Putnam said.

Back at the 2002 Fall Town Meeting, voters approved an article to assess the 300 homes in the Hatchville neighborhood a $530,000 betterment to build a water main connecting their homes with the newly built water tower at Falmouth Technology Park. The project was completed in 2004, under budget for $358,000. At the same time, the town decommissioned a booster pumping station on Sam Turner Road that had previously serviced Ballymeade.

The debate, which was acrimonious at moments, centered on whether the Ballymeade homeowners are better served with the new transmission line.  

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“This is not a betterment or an improvement fee. We are not better off now,” said George W. Sanborn, a member of the BPOA. He asked the board to consider waiving the fee or postponing it until the homeowners association receives the $165,000 from the town in a recent settlement agreement.

Margaret G. Nicholson, president of the association, asked the board for documented proof that residents have benefited from the transmission main.

“What quantitative measure can you provide to us?” she asked.

Raymond A. Jack, director of the Department of Public Works, said that the new water tower was built to ensure that residents would receive proper fire protection.

Town officials have acknowledged that it led to lower water pressure, but said the water pressure was still within regulatory limits. Association members said last night that many homeowners experience water pressure and flow well below the limit.

Selectman Kevin E. Murphy said Ballymeade is not the only area in town with low water pressure, comparing the neighborhood with an area in West Falmouth.

“This is outrageous for you to compare our pressure with Craggy Ridge. Please refrain from these outlandish comparisons. Don’t make up [water pressure] numbers. I have spent thousands of dollars in pumps and fixtures to increase my water flow,” Mr. Sanborn told Mr. Murphy.

Mr. Sanborn said during summer months, he cannot get any water flow in his upstairs bathroom and said his pressure reads well below legal limits.

Each homeowner is to pay $1,165, which will be included in their water bill. It can be apportioned over 25 years with 3 percent interest. If paid in full, the interest will be waived.

The debate continued about whether the water tower has improved fire safety, with the town assuring residents that it had. 

Robert K. Sanborn, of Cairn Ridge Road, contends there was not an issue of fire safety.

“You know, deep, deep down that the previous pump was adequate,” he said.

The homeowners also contend they have paid $300,000 collectively over the years via a 25 percent surcharge tacked on to their water bills to operate a pumping station.

Austin A. Heath of Paddock Circle said after the meeting the association will petition Town Meeting in an attempt to reverse the fee, and that they have reams of documentation to support their position.

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