Public Forum Wednesday to Present Sandwich Water Protection Financing Plan

SANDWICH – The Sandwich Chamber of Commerce will host a public forum Wednesday afternoon to discuss an innovative way for the town to fund projects to improve water quality issues.

The proposal would add a 2 percent surcharge on property taxes for the Water Infrastructure Investment Fund, which would only be used to pay for projects related to wastewater, drinking water or stormwater issues.

It also includes reducing the surcharge for the Community Preservation Act by 1 percent.

“There will be a net 1 percent increase on the bills that [tax payers] receive if both things get approved,” said Sandwich Town Manager Bud Dunham. “Doing the reverse math it equates to about $57 per year for the average home in Sandwich which is valued at just under $400,000.”

Over the next 25 years that cost increases by less than $3 per year, according to Dunham.

“For a town like Sandwich to think that we could primarily solve that large of a problem for that relatively inexpensive amount of money is something we are intrigued by if the voters will support [it,]” Dunham said.

The fund would be used to clean ponds and coastal waters, along with the extension of water lines throughout town and provide better stormwater draingage.

Dunham says the proposal is far cheaper for taxpayers than to tackle projects individually.

“It would add up. We would have to ask constantly and we wouldn’t be able to be flexible and able to react as quickly as this would allow us to do,” Dunham said.

The fund would grow and earn interest similar to the Community Preservation Act surcharge.

The proposal is possible due to a law passed by legislators in the state several years ago that allows municipalities to assess a property tax surcharge up to 3 percent to raise funds for wastewater, drinking water or stormwater purposes.

The town completed its Comprehensive Water Resources Management Plan after a decade of work and it estimates that water quality improvement projects would require $86 million over the next two or three decades.

The proposal would require a two-step process to be approved by voters.

The change would require a town meeting vote for both the new WIIF surcharge and the reduction of the CPA surcharge. The two surcharge changes would then also need approval at town election.

“We are trying to roll out the public education,” Dunham said.

Dunham said a few committees have been extremely supportive of the plan because they understand the severity of the wastewater and groundwater problem.

Dunham will be a presenter, along with Director of Public Health David Mason and consultant Edward Leonard at the forum Wednesday at 5:30 p.m. at Sandwich Town Hall. It is open to the public.

The town has also created a few short videos on the plan with the help of Sandwich Community Television.

“They have really done a great job editing them and getting them down to the simplest way we could present the information,” Dunham said.

Two videos are available at the town’s website and four more have been taped and are being produced.

“In addition we are trying to talk about it at every Selectmen’s meeting and finance committee meeting, Dunham said.

By BRIAN MERCHANT, CapeCod.com NewsCenter

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