The following is from DPW Director Roger Hill
As most Foxborough residents are aware, the Towns of Norton, Mansfield and Foxborough have been working together for the past five years to develop an inter-municipal agreement (IMA) that will enable the creation of a new sewer district and the upgrading and expansion of the Mansfield wastewater treatment plant. Currently, that plant serves parts of all three towns via agreements structured in the 1980s.
Whenever any wastewater treatment plant in Massachusetts is approaching or at 80% of its maximum treatment capacity, the state requires that plans must be developed for upgrading and expansion.
The effluent discharge from the existing plant flows into the Taunton River basin. The quality and quantity of this effluent is controlled by Federal regulations. Any increase in the quantity of flow will require underground recharge. No additional discharge to the river will be allowed. In addition, Federal regulations require substantial treatment modifications to the existing flows to improve water quality in the Taunton River basin, even if there is no increase in discharge.
All improvements to the existing plant that are necessary to upgrade existing effluent quality must be funded by existing users. The cost of these improvements has been determined by the consulting engineering firm, CDM Smith, and Foxborough’s share will be approximately $ 18,000,000. These improvements will not expand the plant capacity.
Currently Foxborough has no available sewer capacity to sell. There are several municipal and private sewer needs in the Town, but there is no way to provide service.
· The area west of Foxborough Common, which will remain economically stagnant without sewer, due to the lots being too small for septic systems; the Burrell School, which currently has a septic system approaching the end of its useful life; numerous private entities located where sewer lines exist but no service is available, due to lack of treatment capacity.
· Future commercial development of both the Common area and Foxfield Plaza have immediate sewer needs and are ready to develop if and when capacity is available.
· Vertical expansion of existing buildings in Foxborough Business Park will not be feasible without additional sewer capacity. Right across the town line, Mansfield is rezoning its area within Forbes development to allow just such vertical expansion. This is one of the reasons that even if the IMA fails, Mansfield plans to expand the existing plant.
Foxborough and its contract customers currently own in excess of 600,000 gallons per day of treatment capacity in the existing plant. A substantial part of that capacity was sold based on State Title V rules (septic system rules). Actual usage is a lot less, so in effect, there is an excess of about 200,000 gallons per day not being used.
Joining the IMA sewer district will immediately free up that unused Title V capacity in the existing plant and enable Foxborough to obtain a substantial amount of that excess unused capacity at no or extremely low cost. The capacity obtained can then be immediately resold to new customers. Joining the new district is the only available avenue to free up that unused Title V capacity. It is estimated that over time, the sale of this capacity could produce in excess of 8-10 million dollars in revenues, which would be used to stabilize rate increases due to the plant improvements and expansion.
Joining the district will also provide an additional 170,000 gallons per day for future development, which will become available in five years at the completion of the expanded plant. The sale of this additional capacity in the future could produce an additional 7.5 to 9.5 million dollars, which would again be used to stabilize rate increases.
Twice in the recent past, the Town has rejected plans to expand the sewer system. The primary reason for this was that the cost for the expansion was to be paid for by betterment charges that were to be imposed on all land abutting sewer lines.
The Water & Sewer Commission now has developed a financing plan that eliminates betterment charges and places almost the entire expansion costs on sale of capacity to new users. This plan is predicated on freeing up and selling unused Title V capacity and on the sale of newly created capacity. There are no betterment fees attached to this plan. People abutting existing or proposed sewer lines that have septic systems will not be required to pay betterment fees or to hook up to sewer unless they need to.
If Foxborough does not join the new IMA district, the mandated improvements to the existing treatment plant will have to be paid for exclusively by the existing sewer users. As stated above, that cost to Foxborough is estimated at 18 million dollars. There are currently only 934 users, thus, an average user will be forced to pay in excess of 19 thousand dollars in increased rates over time, just to maintain the status quo. The Town will obtain no new capacity, economic development will continue to stagnate, and the existing unused Title V capacity will not be available for resale; thus, the Town will not be able to serve any new customers. This is the sum and substance of the “do nothing” alternative.
At this November 4, 2013 Special Town Meeting, the voters will be asked to approve the initial new Sewer District Map, which creates the District in Foxborough and grandfathers all existing customers into the new District. The map also includes an area around the Common not currently on sewer into the new District. This area was selected by the Foxborough Planning Board as an economic development incentive for Foxborough center as a part of the new Master Plan.
In the future, amendments to the map will require a vote of Town Meeting. This will insure that no future betterment fees can be imposed.
The “do nothing” alternative and the expansion alternative both have risk, but historically, Towns that have sewer capacity available almost always sell it out before predicted. They usually overestimate the time necessary to sell all their new capacity. While that may not prove to be the case with Foxborough, it is a far better plan than the “do nothing” alternative.