Barnstable County Officials Consider Loan Expansion to Help Sewer Projects

Sewer-related construction in Falmouth.

BARNSTABLE – Barnstable County officials recently addressed the potential of expanding the Community Septic Management Loan Program as municipalities across the region continue to invest in wastewater infrastructure.

During the latest meeting of the county commissioners, Senior Environmental Specialist with the Barnstable County Health and Environment Department Brian Baumgaertel outlined the program, which aims to help environmentally sensitive areas like Cape Cod fix failed septic systems for those who make less than $150,000 a year.

A failed system must be verified by an expert, and can also be declared by local boards of health. 

The program has been responsible for 4560 total loans equating to $54.2 million, according to Baumgaertel. 

While an overall successful program that has assisted in expanding sewering across the region, the program is experiencing a need for further staffing and other forms of expansion. 

With numerous projects underway across Cape Cod to expand wastewater infrastructure, Baumgartel said that planning now will be integral to ensure long-term financial stability for the program and the county.

After review, Barnstable officials recommended a “balanced” approach of 0%, 2% and 4% interest rates for those making regional median income and below, regional median and above up to $120,000, and $120,000 and above, respectively.

Commissioner Mark Forest said that the more resources the county can afford to put into the program, the better.

“If it requires more financial commitments then we prepare to pursue those. I don’t want to be timid at all in this. I think that it’s important to try and make available as many financial incentives and opportunities as we can, because obviously we’re entering a very critical phase right now in terms of towns gearing up with wastewater plans,” said Forest.

“Having this tool on the table of an expanded loan program I think is going to be critical for the success of many communities.”

Forest added that getting more comment from the public on the issue would be helpful towards choosing the best course of action, given that there is a wide range of steps that can be taken on how much to invest in the program. 

Mashpee Select Board member and Association to Preserve Cape Cod Executive Director Andrew Gottlieb said that the existing program has been successful, and that further developments towards improved water quality on Cape Cod will hinge on the further use of the program.

“The towns have made enormous progress in moving forward with municipal programs. The piece that no town has the ability to solve on its own and therefore where the county is perfectly situated to come in to fill the breach is on providing financial assistance to homeowners with those sewer connections.”

The commissioners asked Barnstable officials to finalize their recommendation and begin public outreach on the possible expansions to the program in the coming weeks.

About Grady Culhane

Grady Culhane is a Cape Cod native currently living in Eastham. He studied media communications at Cape Cod Community College and joined the News Center in 2019.
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