Selectmen Select Wastewater to top the Ballot

Falmouth Board of Selectmen Monday night approved the election ballot sequence for the three warrant articles requiring a townwide vote on May 20.

Question 1 will ask voters to approve a $49.8 million comprehensive wastewater management plan, including widening the inlet to Bournes Pond, installing sewers to houses surrounding Little Pond, upgrading the current wastewater treatment plant, and making improvements to the sewer mains in Woods Hole. The funding needs voter approval under the Proposition 2 1/2 law.

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Question 2 seeks approval of a $46.5 million for the design and construction of a water treatment/filtration system to supplant the current one built more than 100 years ago. The project’s cost will be split evenly between water rates and a tax levy, although the tax rate will not increase because the town is retiring other debt. Department of Public Works director Raymond A. Jack said starting in 2016 residents would see a doubling of their minimum water use charge and a 30 percent increase on the excess water portion.

Question 3 is for spending $1.6 million to build an artificial turf athletic field. The new turf field will be built on the south side of Falmouth High School and will be used for football, soccer and lacrosse games. Further upgrades include new bleachers, lights, concession stands, restrooms and a scoreboard. If it passes, voters will pay a one-time tax increase.

The board debated splitting the wastewater projects contained in Question 1 into four separate articles, but ultimately decided to keep it intact as it appeared in Town Meeting last week. Chairman Brent V.W. Putnam offered to split the items based on their urgency.

He said the state [Department of the Environmental Protection] is requiring the town to upgrade immediately the wastewater plant and Woods Hole sewer mains based on prior environmental violations.

“We could make sure we satisfy the state requirements,” he said.

During Town Meeting, many members voiced opposition to the wastewater plan, stating the town had not adequately considered all alternatives to a costly sewer project.

Selectman Kevin E. Murphy opposed the motion based on the premise that Town Meeting debated the very same motion and voted it down.

“The way I look at it, it’s all part of the comprehensive plan submitted to the state. I don’t think we should risk not having that state-approved plan pass as a whole. The [Water Quality Management] Committee worked very hard with public outreach to reach a consensus on this plan,” Selectman Mary (Pat) Flynn said. “The plan was carefully developed and the four pieces are needed to reach our water quality goal,” said Water Quality Management Committee vice chairman Virginia Valiela.

Adrian C.J. Dufresne of Lucerne Avenue, Falmouth Heights, asked the board to consider having a cost per project per household analysis available to voters before May 20. 

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