Ballot Question 4, which asked Mashpee voters to establish a Wastewater Infrastructure Investment Fund, has passed after the Mashpee Town Clerk’s office conducted a hand recount on Friday, November 20.
The local ballot question appeared to have failed by just two votes in this month’s elections, but after petitioners called for a recount, the question has been shown to have passed 4,807 to 4,761, a margin of 46 votes.
“I’m obviously extremely pleased to see the question passed and the water infrastructure fund will be established,” Selectman Andrew R. Gottlieb, who helped collect signatures on the petition for the recount, said. “It’s a good reversal of fortune.”
Beginning on July 1 of next year, the wastewater infrastructure fund established with a 2 percent property tax will begin collecting funds for the expensive sewering projects that loom in the town's future.
Mr. Gottlieb said he expects the fund will raise about $950,000 a year.
Sewer and wastewater treatment projects are a critical part of Mashpee's Comprehensive Watershed Nitrogen Management Plan that aims to reduce nitrogen loads in the town's embayments and improve water quality.
The five-phase plan envisions sewering large swathes of town over the next 25 years, beginning with the Popponesset Bay watershed. The new fund will provide a steady stream of revenue for wastewater infrastructure projects that are expected to cost tens of millions, if not hundreds of millions, of dollars.
With the hand recount reversing initial results, Ballot Question 4 has passed in tandem with Ballot Question 3, which reduced the 3 percent property tax collected by the Community Preservation Fund to 2 percent.
Together, the reduction in the Community Preservation Fund and the new Wastewater Infrastructure Investment Fund will result in a net 1 percent increase on property taxes, as envisioned by the selectmen.
Town Clerk Deborah F. Dami said reversal of the original results came because the hand recount revealed votes for Ballot Question 4 that were not picked up by the machine.
When voting some people might not have filled in the oval near their vote on Ballot Question 4 dark enough or might have circled or put a check mark in the oval, resulting in the machine not detecting the vote, Ms. Dami said.
"That's the whole purpose of a hand recount, to look at those things," Ms. Dami said.
Mr. Gottlieb said the close vote taught him that selectmen should make concerted efforts to educate the public on the ballot questions.
"Lesson learned that in the future you can't take any individual vote for granted," he said.