Town Meeting approves all warrant articles

Oct 28, 2019

Monday night’s Town Meeting was smooth sailing, as voters approved improvements to the sewer treatment plant, funding for a new playground and new soccer fields, and a $1,281,500 capital plan. 

New electronic voting allowed attendees to vote privately and immediately see a vote’s results without the need for hand counts. 

Here are some of the major decisions of the evening.

Public Safety Complex

Voters approved spending $165,000 on the first steps toward building a new Public Safety Complex at Town Meeting.

The complex will be home to the Police Department, and Wareham Emergency Medical Services, and could also host other departments.

“It’s something that’s desperately needed and it’s frankly not the conditions that the men and women of the Wareham Police Department should be working in,” said Town Administrator Derek Sullivan.

Both the Finance Committee and the Board of Selectmen recommended passage of the article.

“The staff that work in that building do an extraordinary job when you consider the dilapidated conditions that they are working under,” said Finance Committee chair Bernard Pigeon. “I think that they deserve a better facility.”

The study, which will examine feasibility, fund a preliminary design, and pay for appraisal of the current station and site, will be funded through revenues from sales at Verilife, the medical and recreational marijuana retailer. One quarter of the revenue the town receives from marijuana sales is put into the Municipal Facilities Stabilization Fund, which will be used to fund the new complex and, later, to maintain and upgrade other municipal buildings.

Voters overwhelmingly approved the motion, with 169 voting yes and 10 voting no.

Water Pollution Control Facility improvements

Town Meeting voters on Monday approved $2,650,000 to begin improvements at the Water Pollution Control Facility. Of these funds, town will appropriate $1 million from Capital Reserves and will further borrow $1.65 million to pay for the costs of constructing a new lined weather equalization basin and piping to manage excessive flows that exceed the capacity of the current equalization basins, along with engineering studies for future projects.

This step is a part of the $10 million Water Pollution Control Facility improvement plan, during which the town will also add a denitrification filter to the facility and construct a smaller covered basin dedicated to managing odors. The Sewer Commission is currently working to conduct an engineering study for these projects and will most likely announce their cost during the Spring Town Meeting 2020. 

“We were overaggressive looking for all three projects at one time. We knew what it costs to do one project, 2.5 million, so let's go for that,” said Sewer Commission clerk Sandy Slavin. “We were looking for all of them at the same time when we should be doing it in steps.”

The fixes are intended to help the facility manage peak flow times as well as infiltration flows following particularly wet weather.

Infiltration refers to the fresh water that enters a sewer system through cracked pipes, faulty storm drains, and sump pumps illegally connected to the town sewer.

Currently, the treatment facility cannot properly treat the higher flow levels and it discharges some untreated wastewater to the ground, which not only violates the discharge permit but also goes directly into groundwater which will then reach the Agawam River, causing a highly negative environmental impact. 

“This facility is critical to Wareham’s survival and its future,” said Finance Committee member Dominic Cammarano Jr.

One hundred forty-five people voted in favor of the project, while 19 opposed it.

Capital Plan

Voters approved spending $1,281,500 from the town’s free cash on a number of projects. 

The schools will see $250,000 for upgrades to the HVAC system, facility repairs and upgrades, new furniture, and grounds work. The Department will also receive $150,000 for textbooks, online licenses, and software. The schools’ transportation department also received $90,000 to buy a school bus and $45,000 for the purchase of two vans.

The Police Department received $224,500 to purchase and equip three police cruisers, improve radio infrastructure for the dispatchers, and replace two quad/ATVs.

Municipal Maintenance received $50,000 in funds to look into how to best fix the HVAC systems in the Library and Town Hall, along with $92,000 to purchase a track skid steer — a piece of equipment used for groundskeeping and construction work — along with several attachments.

The IT department received $380,000 to replace the town’s 9-year-old servers.

Solar Pilot Agreement

Voters secured a new source of revenue for the town by approving a payment in lieu of taxes, or PILOT, agreement with a new solar energy company. The array will be located on Cranberry Highway across from Patterson Brook Road. In addition to real estate taxes, the company will pay the town $43,400 the first year, and that payment will increase by 2.5% each year thereafter.

Protecting clean water

Voters made strides to protect the town’s water by approving a bylaw and increasing a fund to help homeowners replace failing septic systems.

Town Meeting approved increasing the septic loan program to $350,000. The program allows the town to offer low-interest loans to homeowners to cover the costs of connecting to the sewer or replacing or upgrading a failed septic system. Residents then repay the loan along with their real estate tax bills.

The third vote related to clean water was the approval of a Stormwater Management and Illicit Discharge Bylaw, which is required by the federal Clean Water Act. The bylaw is intended to protect the bodies of water in town, as well as the groundwater, from contamination.