Facing an important deadline, selectmen voted Tuesday to hold a Special Town Meeting on March 4 to decide whether Foxborough will enter into an Intermunicipal Agreement (IMA) with area towns to form a Regional Sewer District in Mansfield.
The March 4 meeting has been tentatively set for 7:30 p.m. in the auditorium of Foxborough High School and will focus on "two to three" warrant articles related to the IMA and proposed Regional Sewer District.
Town Manager Kevin Paicos said selectmen may decide to include a warrant article to appropriate roughly $50,000 to design plans to convert the post office building into a town hall but the STM warrant would be short to focus on sewer.
“We want to keep this warrant clean for the AdCom, who is going to have a tremendous amount of work to do [from now until March],” Paicos said. “We don’t want to put a lot of warrant articles on this [STM warrant] but the one [selectmen] might want to consider is the design fee to consider the post office as an alternative town hall. That gives [the town] a three-month head start versus waiting until the [Annual Town Meeting].”
Richard M. Pacella Jr., vice chair of the Foxborough Water and Sewer Commissioners, told selectmen Tuesday the commissioners have been working out the details of a plan to address sewer volumes, capacities and regionalization with Mansfield, Norton and possibly Easton. Pacella said Foxborough has been given a March deadline to commit to the IMA, which is why the commissioners requested a March 4th STM instead of waiting until May’s ATM.
“We are looking for a Special Town Meeting to present a warrant for funding for the IMA,” Pacella said. “The exact funding of it hasn’t been presented to us to a point where we can speak publicly to it but we are in the works and plan to spend the next two months finalizing everything, presenting it to AdCom and selectmen.”
Paicos provided the public and selectmen with a basic overview of the finance plan and cleared up any confusion of how much the IMA will cost the town if it decides to join Mansfield and Norton.
“The town does not need to come up with $3.5 or $3.7 or $ 4 million [for this regional sewer district],” Paicos said. “We only need to come up with the debt service that is required of that number bonded over 20 years.”
Which means, according to Paicos, the town would be obligated to pay its portion of design and construction of the regional plant over the first five years of the 20-year bond.
After the first five years of design and construction, the revenue from sewerage sold will pay the remaining 15 years of the debt service bond, according to Paicos.
“Once the plan is actually constructed and we have that sewerage, all the commissioners do is sell that sewerage that generates the revenue, which pays the debt service for the next 15 years,” Paicos said.
What voters are expected to review at the March 4 STM is the finance plan for Foxborough’s involvement in the IMA.
“What we’ve done is create a finance plan, which has multiple layers and ways to fund that debt service,” Paicos said. “It is not a gigantic number. The first year might be as little as $80,000 or $90,000 because that is our share of the design fee for the engineers to design the plan. Year two will likely be the permitting year. Years three, four and five will be funding incrementally a piece of the construction year after year.”
Paicos said the cost over the five-year span of design and construction will likely be “a little over $1 million” and not $3.5 or $4 million.
There are other components to the finance plan, which will be detailed to the public at a future selectmen meeting towards the end of January.
“What we can say with certainty [at this point] is that we have sufficient resources financially to pay the obligation required to join the [proposed sewer] district,” Paicos said.
Underlining the complexity of the finance plan for this project, Paicos said an engineer from California will be flown in to town for the presentation with selectmen.
“We didn’t want to get too deeply into the finance plan [on Tuesday] because we don’t want to [explain it] halfway with [selectmen],” Paicos said. “We are actually flying an engineer here from California to make the presentation because this is sufficiently complicated and we needed that level of backup. What we are trying to do right now is figure out two nights consecutively to make the presentations [to selectmen and AdCom].”
Mansfield and Norton had originally set a November-December deadline to make a decision on the IMA but Mansfield failed to get a quorum at its November Special Town Meeting, which ultimately gave Foxborough more time to work on the finance plan before presenting to voters at a Special Town Meeting.
“Mansfield failed to get a quorum for a Town Meeting and that was fortunate for us because we couldn’t have our finance plan developed at that point,” Paicos said.
The revised deadline was then to be set for February but Foxborough requested March to finalize its finance plan.
“We asked if we could go into early March and our partners said ‘sure,’” Paicos said.
In addition to finalizing the finance plan, Paicos said it needs to be determined who is will be joining the proposed regional sewer district.
“Right now there are four potential communities – Mansfield, Norton, Foxborough and Easton and we need commitments from everybody because right after that vote the engineers have to start the design process, which is how many gallons are they designing for,” Paicos said. “So they can in turn tell us what exactly our financial obligation is so everybody could get the authorization for the bonds to do it. That’s what’s driving the request for the March Town Meeting.”
Paicos said the Regional Sewer District will take effect on July 1, 2013 if voters approve the necessary warrant articles to join the IMA.
“The presumption is on or by July 1, 2013 - at long last - we will sign an IMA,” said Paicos. “It will constitute the district; it will become a corporate entity and it will begin the actual process of designing and constructing the regional plan.”
Selectmen discussed the possibility of holding the Special Town Meeting on March 11 but took the recommendations of Pacios and Advisory Committee chair Larry Thomas to hold it on March 4 because of the imposed deadline to commit to the IMA.