Get ready to pay more in water and sewer rates. For the third time this year, the rates will go up after the Foxboro Board of Water and Sewer Commissioners voted 3-0 for a six percent increase in both water and sewer rates effective immediately.
Originally planned to take place in the water and sewer office at Town Hall, the meeting was moved in to the Gala Meeting Room after the office proved to be too small for the crowd gathered for the hearing.
The rate increase is being attributed to unfunded mandates from the state and federal government, stricter regulation on clean water, and the dirty water that has frustrated many in town.
With rampant complains of brown and black water in areas of town, the board said rate increase will continue to address those issues among other requirements for water services.
“It’s really pretty simple. The infrastructure in Foxboro need a ton of work. What we’re doing is trying set the rates so we can provide clean water over 30 years,” chairman Mike Stanton said.
The town has already begun to address the issue of the black water. According to DPW head Roger Hill, water service on Chestnut Street from Mechanic Street to Cocasset has been transferred to single water main instead of the two water mains including the cast iron water main which was responsible for the black water.
“We have not had one black water street complain (since the switch) on that street,” Hill said. “We’ve eliminated that. That gave us one of the things we can do to eliminate the black water problem.”
The solution may not be applicable to all parts of town however. According to Hill water is serviced on the other part of Chestnut Street by a cast iron water main and a cement water main and Hill called the transfer to the cement water main, “not a good idea.”
Hill added that the town is building a new filtration plant on Lamson Road. The four major wells at the location are expected to be pumped into the system in two weeks and would service the other part of Chestnut Street.
The board is also hoping for more consistency in the rate increases. Since 2001, spikes in the rates have ranged between five and 25 percent. The board is looking for to avoid the spikes with future increases.
“It is our desire to present to the town when we have the facts where we want to go and what we estimate the costs and rate increases will be,” Stanton said.
A clearer forecast with an expectation of what the rates will be in the future will be known once the town performs a capital improvement plan that will allow for an asset management of the water system.
On the sewer side, the town currently has no sewer space to spare and a downtown in need of more sewer capacity.
According to Hill, a new development at Foxfield Plaza would require 10,000 gallons of sewer space and the new Meditech building on Foxborough Blvd. will need a substantial amount of sewer.
The only way the town can increase capacity is by joining an inter-municipal agreement (IMA) with Norton and Mansfield to crease a new sewer district which would upgrade and expand the Mansfield wastewater treatment plant.
Due to federal regulation, upgrades to the current infrastructure in Foxboro must be made and funded by the existing users at a cost of $18 million.
“That goes on the backs of the 900-odd ratepayers. That will break the back of our ratepayers and it’s not fair and not right that happens,” Hill said.
An IMA would allow the town access to more sewer capacity and the chance to sell that space to lower the cost of the updates for the users. According to Hill, the town may be able to make $8-10 million in revenue from the sale of sewer space.
But for now, the rates will go up as a precaution with more sewer access still years down the road.
“We have to do some increases in the rates because we know this is down the road and we can’t just sit here and say ‘let's wait until the bomb hits and build the shelters,'” Hill said.
In the past, the town has rejected expansion plans due to the cost being funded by betterment charged to be impose on all land abutting sewer lines. The new financing plans eliminates the betterment charges and places almost the entire expansion costs on the sale of capacity to new users.
If the town does not join the IMA, the improvement costs will fall on the users at an average of $19,000 in increased rates per user over time.
The reuse rate was also increase by six percent but does not effect the use habits of residents.