Mashpee voters will gather outdoors under a tent at the stadium field adjacent to Mashpee Middle-High School on Monday, May 3, at 7 PM for Town Meeting.
A Special Town Meeting warrant with six articles and an Annual Town Meeting warrant with 19 articles will go before voters. A vote on a $54 million wastewater treatment and sewer construction project will headline the night.
The sewer construction project is Article 6 on the Annual Town Meeting warrant. It seeks a debt exclusion and will require a two-thirds majority vote at Town Meeting and a majority approval in response to a ballot question at the annual town election on Saturday, May 8, in order to pass.
If approved, construction of a wastewater treatment plant adjacent to the Mashpee transfer station and an adjoined sewer system stretching west along Route 28 to Quinaquisset Avenue and south down Orchard Road and part of Mashpee Neck Road could begin as soon as next spring.
The project, which comes after years of delay and as the town faces a potential lawsuit over nitrogen pollution from septic systems, aims to remediate nitrogen pollution in the Mashpee River watershed by connecting more than 400 properties to the sewer system.
The Conservation Law Foundation last November announced a proposed lawsuit against the Town of Mashpee that contends that the town violates Title V of the Massachusetts Environmental Code every time a septic system that discharges nitrogen-laden effluent is permitted or passes inspection. The proposed lawsuit would seek a court order to suspend septic installations and inspections in town.
The Mashpee River is one of the most nitrogen-polluted water bodies in southeastern Massachusetts, with excess nitrogen fueling annual algae blooms that crowd out native plant life and habitat and absorbs oxygen from the water column as the algae decomposes.
The sewer construction project constitutes phase one of the town’s five-phase plan to remediate nitrogen pollution with sewer systems and wastewater treatment. The Town Meeting vote to construct the first phase of the sewer system comes six years after the town finalized the five-phase clean water plan. The design of the first phase of the sewer project passed Town Meeting last June by a razor-thin margin.
After years of preparation, town officials have presented a united front with both the Board of Selectmen and Finance Committee unanimously recommending that Mashpee voters approve the sewer construction project at Town Meeting on Monday.
The project is not expected to raise taxes due to various internal and external revenue sources. Town officials have spent several weeks educating residents about the project through informational posters and virtual forums that can be found on the town’s website.
Should voters approve the $54 million debt exclusion, the entire cost of the project would qualify for 2-percent-interest loans from the state revolving fund’s clean water program.
Article 8 on the Annual Town Meeting warrant would establish flow neutral regulations that could further lower the interest on the state revolving fund loans from 2 percent to 0 percent, saving the town millions of dollars in interest.
Flow neutral regulations, which several other Cape Cod towns, including Falmouth, have adopted, would mandate that parcels of property in sewer service areas eliminate any septic systems, which are the primary source of nitrogen pollution, and be connected to the sewer system.
The regulations would also set limits to the amount of flow allowed from any property connected to the sewer system. For existing and new development of single-family residences on parcels of 40,000 square feet or less, four bedrooms would be allowed by right.
The sewer project will further be funded through a Cape and Islands Water Protection Fund subsidy that will cover 25 percent of the entire cost of the project as well as through the town’s Wastewater Infrastructure Investment Fund and revenues from a local short-term rental tax.
Also before Mashpee voters at Town Meeting next Monday is a $62.3 million operating budget for Fiscal Year 2022. The budget—which is Article 2 on the Annual Town Meeting warrant—represents a 1.9 percent increase from the FY21 budget.
The board of selectmen and the finance committee have unanimously recommended that voters approve the FY22 operating budget.
A $1.8 million capital improvement budget, which is Article 3 on the Annual Town Meeting warrant, will also be before voters. The capital improvement budget includes vehicle purchases for the Department of Public Works, Fire Rescue Department, Natural Resources Department and Police Department, as well as various infrastructure upgrades for town hall and the Mashpee schools.
The board of selectmen and finance committee have also unanimously recommended that voters approve the capital improvement budget.
On the Special Town Meeting warrant, Article 6 asks voters to approve $850,000 for the purchase and customization of two industrial-sized working bays in the Mashpee Industrial Park for use as a Department of Natural Resources facility. Town officials had previously considered constructing a new facility from scratch but opted to save millions of dollars by purchasing the existing bays instead.
The board of selectmen and finance committee have unanimously recommended that voters approve Article 6 on the Special Town Meeting warrant.