The Ballymeade Property Owners Association and the Town of Falmouth signed a settlement agreement last Thursday, May 1, that puts to rest part of a long-running water pressure issue. But a recent announcement that homeowners will have to pay for a water main reignited anger and irked many residents.
The town agreed to pay Ballymeade homeowners $165,000 to offset the costs of home water pumps they have installed and maintained in order to improve water pressure and flow in their homes. Thirty-three Ballymeade homeowners will receive $5,000.
The town is chipping in $50,000 and the remaining $115,000 will be placed on the November 2014 Town Meeting warrant. The settlement stipulates that selectmen “shall fully promote, support and recommend this appropriation” at Town Meeting.
The town also agreed to dig up and visually inspect the water transmission main to confirm its size. Town counsel Frank K. Duffy said this has already been done and they confirmed the water line is 16 inches in diameter, which satisfied the residents.
In February 2011 the association filed a lawsuit against the town of Falmouth in Barnstable Superior Court in an attempt to improve what it argues is substandard water pressure in multiple homes in the private development. The lawsuit was an attempt to force the town to address deficiencies in the water delivery system that residents there have claimed impacted their ability to take showers, flush toilets and water their lawns. They eventually agreed to enter into mediation.
In 2004, the town replaced the water tower in the technology park and decommissioned a booster pumping station on Sam Turner Road that had previously serviced Ballymeade. 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 acknowledged that it led to lower water pressure, but said the water pressure was still within regulatory limits.
Many Ballymeade homeowners spoke out Monday night, May 5, against the capital assessment fee for a water transmission line built in 2004 to connect their homes to a new water tower at Falmouth Technology Park.
“It makes no sense to charge us for the water main after you’ve agreed to pay us $165,000,” said Austin A. Heath of Paddock Circle, during Monday night’s board of selectmen meeting. Mr. Heath did however thank the selectmen for ending the litigation.
Back at the 2002 Fall Town Meeting, voters approved an article to assess the 300 homes in the Hatchville neighborhood $535,000 to build a water main connecting their homes with the newly built water tower at Falmouth’s Technology Park. The project was completed in 2004 under budget for $358,000.
Each homeowner is to pay $1,165 that will be tacked onto their water bill. It can be apportioned over 25 years. Mr. Duffy said selectmen wanted to wait until the settlement was reached before charging the fee.
“A capital improvement fee, or betterment, is a fee imposed when your home value has been enhanced. We are not better after hooking up to the tower. In fact, it’s been a detriment,” Henry J. Baxter of Cairn Ridge Road said.
He asked selectmen to either postpone or discard the fee based on the adverse effects of the low water pressure, such as trouble selling homes.
Chairman Brent V.W. Putman said the board did not have the power to alter the capital improvement fee because it was a directive of Town Meeting. He said, however, the board will put the issue on next week’s agenda.