Override Suggested for Infrastructure Work: Water and Sewer Rates May Rise

In a report given by Town Manager Terence Delehanty at Tuesday night’s Town Council meeting he pointed to a deficit in the water and sewer account and the need for a potential $5.1 million debt-exclusion override to fund the Center work.

The average homeowner could see their annual tax bill go up by an additional $59.73 per year if a debt-exclusion override passed.

If water and sewer rates could be increased by an additional $2 to $2.25 per year. In addition there would be an additional increase of 66 cents to cover the center project. The current combined water and sewer rate is $16.90. A rate increase to fund the deficit would range from $18.90 to $19.15 and a rate increase to fund the Center project could range from $19.56-$19.81.

News of this prompted freshman Councilor Michael Lucerto to request that former Town Manager James McKenna be called in to explain the increased cost in the project.

“I share your frustration,” said Councilor Heather Engman.

Councilor Phil Boncore wants to get input from the public.

“I’d like to see full blown public meetings,” said Council President Ron Vecchia.

“This needs a town forum,” Lucerto said, also asking what McKenna has been working on in town since he is still on the payroll as a consultant.

Also in jeopardy are a couple of grants and the town’s reputation.

Under McKenna’s watch the town did receive a MassWorks grant for $2.3 million for the infrastructure work in the center. There is also a Complete Streets grant.

The $12.5 million project is for water and sewer and infrastructure work in the town center, where some work has already been done.

Funding from the project would be $4.3 million from the water and sewer rates and $8.1 million from the general fund.

Delehanty said they could obtain no-interest loans from the MWRA, but they would not be able to go to them for the next 10 years if further loans were needed.

How did the project grow from an $8.5 million project to a $12 million project? In his report Delehanty said the prior administration estimated it at $8.5 million. The construction team advised the administration that it wasn’t a realistic figure given the scope and depth of the project. The figure did not include landscaping, administration costs or public safety details.

DPW head Steve Calla said the town has 46 miles of water mains and 35 miles of sewer lines. So far seven to eight miles have been replaced.

“There’s a lot more to do,” he said.

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