As a matter of fairness, the Town of Mashpee should cover 100 percent of the costs of installing sewer pipes and charge none of the infrastructure costs directly to abutters, the Mashpee sewer commission recommended on Thursday last week, November 7.
In making its recommendation, which came in response to questions posed earlier in the week by selectmen, the commission argued that since the nutrient pollution afflicting the town’s waterways is caused by everyone in the watershed, the burden of the costs should not fall only to property owners in sewered areas who are already likely to face a sizable cost to tie into the sewer system.
“The cause of the problem is everybody is in the watersheds and so that’s why our policy has been everybody in the watersheds, meaning everybody in the town, at least from a Mashpee point of view, should be paying for those capital facilities,” said sewer commission chairman F. Tom Fudala.
Likewise, the rates charged to those who do connect to the sewer system should not include any of the costs of the construction of that system or the adjoined treatment plant, the sewer commission said.
“We are putting all of the construction costs on the tax base because of the unfairness of just having a few people fixing the problem that is caused by everybody,” Mr. Fudala said.
The sewer commissioners could not pin down the exact costs of tying a property into the sewer system. The cost would vary depending on the property, Mr. Fudala said, but would likely amount to a couple thousand dollars.
The policies laid out at the Thursday night meeting of the sewer commission could aid selectmen as they consider crafting articles for May Town Meeting to begin funding Phase One of the town’s wastewater plan.
Questions arose at the latest meeting of the selectmen about whether a policy should be developed so sewer pipes may be laid simultaneously with other roadwork, even before the completion of the wastewater system as a whole.
“Why don’t we develop a recommended policy for major construction or conversion that, within a set amount of time, we put pipes in?” Andrew R. Gottlieb, chairman of the board of selectmen, asked at the meeting on November 4.
Phase One of Mashpee’s wastewater management plan includes the construction of a wastewater treatment plant adjacent to the Mashpee transfer station with an adjoining sewer collection system. The plan estimates the cost of the wastewater infrastructure to be more than $30 million.
The sewer system would stretch north toward town hall and Route 130 and south along part of Mashpee Neck. Further phases of Mashpee’s five-phase plan could include adding sewers to other parts of town, though some later phases may not be necessary if the shellfish aquaculture part of the plan proves effective.
The sewer commission noted that one roadway likely to undergo major construction in coming years, Route 151, does not fall within Phase One of the wastewater management plan, meaning it would be too early to install pipes.
Though it was completed in 2015, Phase One of Mashpee’s Final Recommended Plan has seen little implementation. The shellfish aquaculture component has ramped up in recent years while matters concerning wastewater infrastructure have yet to go before Town Meeting.
In August, selectmen withdrew an article from the October Town Meeting warrant which would have raised about $2.5 million for the design of a wastewater treatment facility and sewer system adjacent the transfer station.