Westport Committee Tackles Route 6 Sewer and Water Project

The Westport Infrastructure Oversight Committee recently convened to deliberate on a substantial $35 million sewer and water infrastructure project aimed at addressing the sanitation needs of the town’s northern region. This initiative is particularly critical for areas with older housing and smaller lots. The urgency of this project stems from the availability of federal recovery funds, which are time-sensitive and crucial for the project’s financial feasibility. The committee discussed various aspects of this initiative, including cost allocation, tax implications, the potential impact on residents, and the importance of securing additional funding.

The project’s funding strategy was a focal point of the meeting. The consultant, Roger Fernandes, presented that 80% of project costs would be assigned townwide, with the remaining 20% covered via betterments. Tax implications for residents were detailed, with a projected increase of 42 cents per $1,000 of assessed property value for both sewer and water, totaling 84 cents. Homeowners with failed septic systems could benefit from a tax credit for connecting to municipal sewers, potentially saving up to $188,000 over five years. Efforts to minimize taxpayer impact included grant applications and low-interest loans, such as the SRF loan for $7.5 million and the Mass Works Grant, which is contingent upon economic development.

The committee underscored the importance of the project for public health and environmental protection, as highlighted by a representative from the Buzzards Bay Coalition. The Westport River and aquifer face ongoing threats from pollutants, including nitrates and PFAS. The Board of Health representative elaborated on the necessity of the initiative in meeting clean water standards and addressing issues with septic systems.

Amid discussions of financing, the committee emphasized the need for strategic action and the pursuit of federal funding. One attendee suggested that more effort should be put into acquiring federal support for community-based projects. Another participant voiced concerns about the financial burden on homeowners, urging a more strategic approach to securing funds and exploring federal-level options.

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The potential tax increase and its implications for residents were also key discussion points. Concerns were raised about the fairness of the fees and the burden placed on residents, especially seniors, who might struggle with the maintenance costs of the denitrification systems. A notable anecdote was shared about an elderly couple who spent $42,000 on such a system, highlighting the financial strain on homeowners. The committee acknowledged these challenges and the complexities of obtaining grants, balancing economic development with preserving the town’s character.

The committee also wrestled with the fairness of the proposed betterment policy. Questions arose about the cost of extending sewer lines down roads with few houses, and whether these costs accurately reflect the expense involved. The methodology for determining fees, including the equivalent dwelling unit concept, was scrutinized, as was the potential financial impact on property owners, particularly along Route 6.

Additionally, the planning board’s proposals to rezone portions of Route Six to improve economic development were considered. This tied into the sewer and water project and the potential rezoning of the area for housing complexes, which could have implications for neighborhoods. The committee also stressed the importance of a trunk line to support future expansion, which could offer benefits for public health and the environment.

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The committee’s outreach efforts were noted, including engaging with local media, environmental groups, and community associations to inform residents about the project. Yard signs and mailings were planned as part of this outreach. The importance of community support was emphasized, especially from the North End, as a question to support the project would be on the ballot in the upcoming town election.

Note: This meeting summary was generated by AI, which can occasionally misspell names, misattribute actions, and state inaccuracies. This summary is intended to be a starting point and you should review the meeting record linked above before acting on anything you read. If we got something wrong, let us know. We’re working every day to improve our process in pursuit of universal local government transparency.

Town Administrator:
Jim Hartnett
Building Committee Officials:
Steve Ouellette, Manuel Soares, Joe Amaral, Robert Daylor, Maurice E. May, Gerald Coutinho, Joe Rioux, Christopher Thrasher

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