The Mashpee selectmen are soliciting questions from residents as they plunge ahead on plans to schedule several special meetings on wastewater in coming months with the goal of having articles ready for Town Meeting in May.
At their Monday, September 9 meeting, the selectmen set dates for at least four special meetings with the first scheduled for Monday, September 16.
“The time to get the bulk of the questions on the table that you want answered is over the next week [to] 10 days,” Andrew R. Gottlieb, chairman of the board of selectmen, told members of the public attending the meeting.
By having questions to the selectmen as soon as possible, he hopes that the selectmen can work to structure the coming special meetings to address those questions.
In addition to September 16 meeting, the selectmen scheduled special meetings for Monday, October 28; Monday, November 25, and Monday, December 9. The selectmen said they were also looking into holding meetings on wastewater on the week of October 14 and November 11.
Selectmen posed their own questions on Monday night, including whether a sewer district would be established to run the wastewater project or whether the reins would remain in the hands of the town.
Questions posed by the potential construction of a wastewater treatment plant at Joint Base Cape Cod also remain at the front of the wastewater conversation.
The push to schedule meetings and address questions from the public comes after the selectmen voted 3-1 to withdraw two articles from the October Town Meeting warrant in late August.
Combined, the two articles which were removed would have laid out $2.48 million for the design of a sewage treatment plant and sewer system to reduce nitrogen output into the Mashpee River watershed, the most polluted of Mashpee’s estuaries.
Had they remained on the warrant, the articles would have given Mashpee voters the option to move toward implementing phase one of the town’s five-phase wastewater management plan which is expected to cost between $160 million and $250 million over the course of several decades.
A final version of the plan was delivered to the sewer commission in May 2015. Voters have yet to see any option before them at Town Meeting which would implement the most significant part of that first phase.
Mr. Gottlieb, the only selectman to vote against withdrawing the two wastewater articles in August, argued that voters were ready to see an option that would address Mashpee’s growing wastewater problem.
The three other members of the board said that, with questions remaining about the cost to taxpayers and the impact of the treatment plant on the abutting Asher’s Path neighborhood, more time was needed to get information to the public.
In August, Mr. Gottlieb stated, “We’re going to schedule meetings every two weeks with the idea of having a series of articles that we move on by January 1.”
With several of those meetings now scheduled, selectmen said that the special meetings will likely embrace a different format than their usual meetings.
“I think there will be different kinds of meetings depending on the subject matter,” Mr. Gottlieb said.
Next Monday’s meeting will focus on “lessons learned from other Cape Cod towns.”
Mr. Gottlieb stated that he has invited representatives from Orleans and Sandwich to speak about the process their towns, which “had been largely seen as being behind [Mashpee] in the process a few years ago,” have gone through to enact wastewater management plans.
The selectman said that he hopes the special meetings can be “more interactive” than the usual meetings. He noted that he plans to “set some tight ground rules to keep it civil and keep the personalities out of it.”
The selectmen also said that they hope that the public will be receptive to listening at the meetings to hear what has to be said before formulating their own opinions.
“Come with your questions, don’t come with your opinions, yet,” selectman John Cotton said.
Mr. Gottlieb said, “Coming at the beginning of the meeting with a statement on a subject that we’ll be discussing and getting new information on kind of defeats the purpose.”