Residents of Hideaway Village are claiming unfair treatment by the town with regards to its sewer agreement.
Folks in the condominium community argue they pay the same sewer rate as other residents, but do not enjoy the same benefits.
The issue was raised during the board of sewer commissioners remote meeting held August 25.
Mary E. Andrews, president of the Hideaway Village Condominium Association, spoke on behalf of residents in the Buzzards Bay condo community. Ms. Andrews told the board that residents believe they are being treated unfairly.
“We pay betterments to be connected, and we pay the same rate, residentially, as everyone else,” she said. “The difference is we get no service in return.”
Ms. Andrews went on to explain that residents of Hideaway Village “pay all our own infrastructure.” That means paying the cost of repairing and/or replacing all sewer system equipment, such as grinder pumps, she said. In addition to equipment costs, there are labor charges, such as for plumbers and electricians, that Hideaway Village residents also pay.
“We have 266 units,” she said, “so you have 266 sewer fees going into the town, and no infrastructure is taken care of, no pumps, no nothing.”
A 5-year agreement between the town and Hideaway Village, effective July 1, 2015, established financial assistance from the town to “assist Hideaway with certain costs associated with infrastructure repair and replacement.” The agreement authorized an annual reimbursement of $30,000 “for repair and replacement of equipment necessary for the safe operation of that portion of the wastewater transmission infrastructure owned and maintained by Hideaway.”
Ms. Andrews said that Hideaway Village spent “nearly every penny” of the $150,000 allocated over the most recent agreement period. Among the expenses that have been incurred, she said, was replacement of 6 generators, and installing natural gas lines rather than fuel them with diesel. One generator alone cost $10,000, not including installation.
Hideaway Village approached the town about renewing the agreement, which ended on June 30, Ms. Andrews said, but they have been turned down.
During the August 25 meeting, commission Chairman James L. Potter said that the town is not in a financial position to renew the previous agreement.
“Everyone needs to get treated fairly and equitably,” Mr. Potter said, “and the only way to do that is we don’t carve out special agreements for certain entities.”
Mr. Potter explained that Hideaway Village, as a condominium complex, is considered a commercial entity, with an extensive sewer system on its property. All the other commercial or condo properties in Bourne, he said, “maintain their own equipment on their own property.”
Sewer rates for the coming fiscal year have been set at $172 higher than residents paid last year. At their July 28 meeting, the sewer commissioners approved a per-unit sewer rate of $1,051, up 19.6 percent from $879 last year. The total cost is split in half with 50 percent due this fall, and the remainder due in February.
The board is also entertaining the possibility of the town subsidizing the new rate through a combination of sewer retained earnings and system development fees. Doing so, however, would require approval by residents of a warrant article at this fall’s Special Town Meeting, so the subsidy would only affect the second installment.
Mr. Potter also mentioned that the board is considering dipping into retained earnings to pay for removal of the failed shared septic system on Savary Avenue in Sagamore Beach. Beyond that, he said, the commissioners are “not looking to spend any more out of retained earnings.”
Mr. Potter added that it was misleading of Ms. Andrews to say that residents of Hideaway Village “get no service.” He said that all users get service, and, in fact, the town helped to replace a lot of the equipment at Hideaway Village over the last five years. He reiterated that it is uncertain whether the town is in a position to continue to do that.
“That’s not to say we can’t explore how we can explore the services the sewer enterprise does provide,” he said. “It would be worth a discussion of how we can work with private entities on infrastructure that’s antiquated, older, and aging.”
The board voted unanimously not to renew the agreement with Hideaway Village.