BOURNE – Sewage infrastructure and its funding, as well as the procedure for hiring a new police chief, were high on the list of items presented to residents of Bourne at the annual and special town meetings on Monday evening.
A little over 200 people were in attendance to vote on the 20 items at the spring sessions at the Bourne Middle School gym.
Water protection fund
In a vote between 80 and 19, the town assembly voters gave the Board of Selectmen permission to discuss updating the Cape Cod and Islands Water Conservation Fund. By updating the fund, the grants granted to the city could be used to cover the costs associated with the intermunicipal wastewater contract with Wareham.
Currently, the city cannot get money from the fund to cover these high wastewater costs, said Selectman Jared MacDonald.
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“We’re trying to get funding not just for Buzzards Bay but for all of Bourne: North, South, East and West,” he said. “We try to make it easier for the interest payers.”
A lawsuit by the Conservation Law Foundation and the Buzzards Bay Coalition in 2010 helped restart water purification. The lawsuit accused the federal environmental protection agency of not having updated the regional wastewater management plan.
An agreement in 2015 resulted in the Cape Cod Commission’s Section 208 Area Wide Water Quality Management Plan, which set the state and federal government to be financially responsible at 25% of the total cost of wastewater remediation. The Cape Towns are responsible for covering the remaining 50%.
When short-term rental taxes were introduced across the state, proponents of Cape Water also proposed a 2.75% excise tax on short-term and traditional rents to further boost sewage financing. The tax was approved by lawmakers in 2018, creating the Cape Cod and Islands Water Conservation Fund.
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The fund’s first awards were announced on April 14, with Bourne receiving a $ 1.6 million grant, according to Mary Jane Mastrangelo, chair of the finance committee.
How the scholarship will be used has not yet been determined. Currently, the new sewage treatment plant under construction in Buzzards Bay is payable but not the regional municipal agreement the city has with Wareham, she said.
Selectman James Potter, who also serves as the city’s appointed officer for the commission, noted that time is of the essence.
Wareham recently approved $ 9 million in infrastructure updates to the wastewater facility and Bourne will owe nearly 18% of the project’s capital cost, Potter said.
With a sewer fund this small, the city needs to look at all possible ways to figure out how to pay for those bills that come into town, Potter said. Otherwise, taxpayers will have to pay the bill, he said.
“Only Sandwich and Bourne get into a situation where we have the channel that separates us,” said Potter. “The north and the south will never be connected.”
Either the city goes alone, which can be expensive, or they partner with another regional city, Potter said.
City to petition state to exempt police chief from public service law
In a 62-52 vote, city council voters passed an article to ask the Massachusetts General Court for special legislation to exempt the Bourne police chief from public service law.
Given the current vacancy, the city is considering how to hire a new police chief, said city administrator Anthony Schiavi. Dennis Woodside, the city’s former police chief, retired in January.
Going through the state civil service commission is time consuming and it essentially allows someone else to determine the next police chief, Schiavi said. The commission will make a list of people who are qualified for the position and the city will be able to choose from the top three on the list, he said.
Schiavi said while the commission takes into account police experience and training, it does not take into account the values and culture of the community. The city is in the best position to pick someone for the post, he said.
“Let’s make the best possible decision for the Bourne Township and not let an outdated system like the civil service choose our next police chief,” Schiavi said.
Two townspeople spoke out against the article and found that their personal services to the police were made on the basis of public service.
MacDonald, a former police officer, spoke out in favor of the article and also spoke out on behalf of the city’s interim police chief Paul Shastany. He said the police department had moved from “utter misery” to “joy” under Shastany’s command and that he had met the needs of the city.
“It’s not about doing better on a test, it’s about being a better professional, a better leader and a better professional,” said MacDonald. “This is what the city of Bourne needs as police chief.”
Ban on plastic water bottles
Voters on Monday approved a petition article calling for a municipal ban on plastic water bottles.
The article prohibits the city from selling single-use plastic containers on the city’s property.
Any city government active in the field of public health and safety is exempt from the statutes. The ban will come into force in January 2022 at the latest.
Cape Town-based Sustainable Practices, the petitioner behind the Bourne bottle ban, has pushed for a similar ban in cities around the Cape. At the end of last year, the ban was passed in 13 of the Cape’s 15 cities. Truro remains the only city that has not passed the ban, and a decision has yet to be made as to whether the matter will be up for debate at the city assembly in late June.
Voters approved a budget of $ 71,735,576 for fiscal 2022, an increase of 1.53% year over year.
Transfer approved to lower sewage rates
Voters unanimously agreed to transfer $ 50,000 of the sewer company’s retained earnings to the general fund to offset the sewer company’s costs and lower the fees for interest payers.
Sewage tariffs, which are set by the sewage commissioners in July, generate revenue for the sewage company fund, but only about 1,100 users are tied to the system.
If the city decides to continue using money from the fund to discount interest payers, the budget will not stay in balance, Schiavi previously told the Times.
Free money should pay off one-off, one-off projects like upgrading infrastructure pipes and pumps or bringing more households in, he said.
But some interest payers could have seen their sewage bills increase by $ 500 annually if voters hadn’t supported the transfer, Schiavi said.
Selectmen, who also act as sewage commissioners, said Monday that they are working on a long-term solution.
Contact Beth Treffeisen at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter: @BTreffeisenCCT.