Yarmouth is preparing to advance alone on the sewage treatment plant

Yarmouth officials are looking to move forward without Dennis and Harwich and build a sewage treatment plant near Buck Island.

The project would be presented to Yarmouth voters at a special city meeting this fall, eliminating the Dennis-Harwich-Yarmouth solution to the region’s sewage problems, although Yarmouth officials have stressed their willingness to include other cities in the project.

In a letter to the board last month, the Yarmouth finance committee said a further delay in implementing the first phase of the plan risked ending in an even more expensive or commissioned project in a few years.

“We believe that the city must show the way, be aggressive in the fight against this problem and not wait any longer,” reads the letter of July 9. “We support the efforts of the Selectboard to move the city forward and are ready to publicly approve Phase I and a treatment facility in Yarmouth and articulate the above reasons for such an article to residents at and before the meeting of the city.”

The Finance Committee stated that further delay would result in a substantial increase in the costs of the project. Each year of delay equates to an increase of about 3-5% in construction costs and an increased risk of losing federal funding, including any money that could flow from passing a federal package. infrastructure.

More delays also mean losing the opportunity to tie construction of the remediation project to the Massachusetts Department of Transportation’s work on Highway 28 this winter, the only chance to open the road for the next five years due to regulations. state, according to the letter. This corridor, which houses a large commercial tax base, is in particular need of investment in sewers.

The finance committee also warned that without city action on the sewage, Yarmouth risked prosecution by the Conservation Law Foundation, a result that could lead to a court-imposed solution that would likely be much more costly and obligate taxpayers to reimburse the project. costs over a shorter period.

Cost increases of this magnitude could have devastating effects on homeowners, said Stefanie Coxe, vice chair of the Yarmouth finance committee.

“If you have a judge imposing a mandatory fix that you have to pay in five years instead of 50, that would force most homeowners who aren’t very wealthy to have to sell their properties to pay for that,” Coxe said. . “It’s definitely the last (thing) we would want to happen.”

Marc Forest

Select the table to discuss the wastewater article this month

Select board chairman Mark Forest said the selectmen would put plans for wastewater treatment plants ahead of the city’s constituency meeting in the fall.

City administrator Robert Whritenour said the board is due to discuss wastewater at its August 17 meeting, but said the board will start work on the city’s special meeting mandate today. ‘hui.

Robert whritenour

Whritenour said town employees were now working to update the plan for a Yarmouth-only sewage treatment plant, which was established before the town explored a tri-town partnership with Harwich and Dennis.

“The original program was for treatment in Yarmouth,” Whritenour said. “One of the essential first steps we need at a town hall meeting is to authorize the funds for the design update of the Yarmouth processing facility. There is additional engineering work we need to do to (propose) the details, which will determine the final budget for the Yarmouth processing plant. At the moment we have an estimate.

The Dennis-Harwich-Yarmouth plant, said to have been located in Dennis, would have saved taxpayers around 11% in capital costs, Whritenour said, but those savings evaporate as project delays lengthen.

Yarmouth wants to have enough planning by August 2022 to apply for a project assessment with the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection, which offers interest-free loans to municipalities for certain projects through its revolving fund of State, said Whritenour.

“It’s a key part of our financial strategy,” he said.

Is partnership possible in the future?

Whritenour said that by moving forward with the first phase of the multi-phase review, Yarmouth will be in a better position to be a regional partner in wastewater treatment going forward.

“It’s not a negative thing,” Whritenour said. “By the time these cities have a little bit of ground beneath them, I think we will all be able to leverage each other and work regionally to make it the best value for taxpayers on both sides of the river. . We will continue to work in this direction.

Coxe said Yarmouth had spent years negotiating a three-town sewage solution with Dennis and Harwich.

“When we were asked to put the project on hold, we did so in the hope that it would be ready to move forward in the fall,” Coxe said. “Now that we are hearing signs that they will not be ready then. I don’t think anyone can blame Yarmouth for saying we can’t wait any longer, especially considering the advisability of opening Highway 28.

Coxe said there will be plenty of opportunities for cities to work with Yarmouth in later phases of the project.

“But in the meantime, we have to strike while the iron is hot and we can’t afford to delay any longer,” she said.

Coxe is particularly concerned that Yarmouth is losing the chance to fund part of the project with federal dollars. After the 2008 financial crisis, federal aid poured into towns and villages that had construction projects “ready to go,” Coxe said.

“Several towns in Cape Town have taken advantage of this for their sanitation and water resources infrastructure projects,” Coxe said. “I saw other communities that had projects that weren’t quite ready yet but missed the boat, and I would hate to see history repeat itself.”

Coxe said that in addition to a number of upcoming funding opportunities, Yarmouth needs to take action on wastewater to ensure it retains one of its most valuable assets – a beautiful and healthy environment .

“As a longtime Cape Codder, I really want to make sure that we are good stewards of our environment and we recognize what the Cape Cod Chamber of Commerce has long said: that our environment is our economy and if we let’s not take care of that, we can say goodbye to our tourism related industries and second home owners, ”Coxe said.

“If we don’t take care of this ourselves, we will end up having a solution dictated to us,” she added. “It’s never as good as being responsible for your own destiny.”

Contact Jeannette Hinkle at [email protected]

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