It’s predictable, and a mistake. Faced with reasonable concerns about the impact of the pandemic on municipal budgets, towns are reviewing spending plans for next year. They should.
Mashpee has done this and its professional finance staff has confirmed that the town is on solid ground financially. Mashpee is well positioned to move forward with the design and engineering of its wastewater treatment facility and initial phase of sewering. The community has spent years, capped by an intensive and broad-based review of the issue this past fall, to arrive at a consensus that the future quality of Mashpee water relies on moving forward with our existing water quality plan. It is time to vote yes on Article 7 at Town Meeting on June 15 and yes on Question 1 on the annual election ballot.
There are many important reasons why Mashpee needs to move forward with wastewater water quality projects that have emerged as consensus priorities after years of conversation. The first is that our precious bays, Waquoit and Popponesset, suffer from horrible water quality each and every summer. We know the reason is our reliance on septic systems and the excess nitrogen they discharge. The only way to effectively and reliably remove enough nitrogen is to treat the wastewater before it gets to the bays. We all want cleaner water and this is how we get it. It is that simple.
The second reason for moving forward is to not repeat a mistake. After the Great Recession in 2007 and 2008 the federal government passed historic stimulus packages that provided hundreds of millions of dollars for shovel-ready infrastructure projects, like wastewater treatment and sewer construction, to support job creation. If you lived on the Cape in those days, you may have not been aware of this federal funding because almost none of it came to Cape Cod. The Cape missed out because we spent so much time avoiding doing what we needed to do on wastewater that the Cape didn’t have projects ready to go. The money went to other communities and Cape residents were left holding the bill.
It is now abundantly clear that Congress will again use infrastructure stimulus as a tool to help the economy recover. The terms and conditions are not yet determined, but it is a safe bet that there will be an emphasis on funding projects that are designed and ready to go in order to get people back to work quickly. So given the projected federal stimulus response, it is in the best interests of the taxpayers of Mashpee to move aggressively to authorize the design and engineering of this project this spring. Doing so increases the chance to take advantage of future infrastructure funding and lowering the cost of clean water for Mashpee taxpayers.
The final reason to move forward is to remember that things will get better. For Cape Cod and Mashpee to recover economically, clean water is as essential to our long-term well being as it was before the pandemic hit. While it is hard to keep the long term in mind when all most of us want to do is get back to work, see our friends and family and no longer have to worry about COVID-19, it is still important to, as we always have, look to the future.
I look forward to a future in Mashpee with clean water. The pathway to that future needs to be put in place now. Vote YES on Article 7 at Town Meeting and YES on Question 1 on the annual election ballot.
Andrew Gottlieb is chairman of the Mashpee Board of Selectmen.