WVN #487: Critical problems with DPW proposal
- Dear Wayland Voter,
A huge public works proposal involving millions of dollars in taxpayer spending and several spring 2013 Town Meeting warrant articles is playing out largely out of the public eye. That seems to be by design.
Also in this newsletter:
-- Residents have until mid-March to submit comments to the state Department of Environmental Protection on the Town's plans to use the land beneath playing fields to discharge wastewater.
-- Residents push town officials for more transparency in budget proposals.
COMMENT: DPW FACILITY PROPOSAL FACES MAJOR OBSTACLES
The Town needs to do something about the aging DPW building on Route 27 next to the Middle School. The general consensus is that the facility is falling apart, and major repair or replacement is imperative. The preferred alternative for the Board of Public Works and DPW is to build a new building on River Road for some $10 million. Numerous obstacles, including legal issues, lie ahead.
Methane from the now-closed abutting landfill has already been reported on the proposed River Road site. WVN has recently learned that the levels found at the site are well above the explosive level, contrary to earlier reports which merely placed them beyond the safety margin. Such levels could provide exciting experiences for any contractor working on the site generating sparks, let alone occupants of a future building.
But the most serious problem is roadway access to that land parcel.
The logical access to the River Road site is, naturally, via River Road. But River Road is a narrow, scenic, residential road, attached to the rest of the world circuitously via Old County Road in Sudbury or Route 27 at the Sudbury town line. Neighbors understandably objected to the notion of heavy DPW trucks routinely using their bucolic street for project construction and facility access. So in March 2012 the selectmen agreed to use another route. That was then ratified by April 2012 Town Meeting voters.
It turns out that the dump site/transfer station that we have been using since 1978 abuts the rear of the proposed River Road building site. Since we've all been driving into the dump, that seems like a reasonable alternative access route. Or so thought some town officials.
Except for one serious problem. The access road into the dump may not be legal.
The road is built on a filled causeway through the Sudbury River marshes, a big no-no under the state Wetlands Protection Act in effect since the early 1960's. The Conservation Commission in 1978, under intense pressure to allow the road to give the Town access to the newly proposed dump, stretched the rules to allow it on a strictly temporary basis, being told that the new dump only had the capacity to last for ten to fifteen years, and that after that the road could be removed.
All the documents from that time referred to the structure as the "temporary access road", and the Town Meeting article approving the project included the provision for removal of the road after the Selectmen certified that it was no longer needed for dump purposes.
But it turned out that the Road Commission, followed by the Board of Health which ran the dump most of the next 30 years, did a better job than anyone expected, and made it last a lot longer than 10 or 15 years. And it was only recently capped, the final major step in its operation.
And nearly 35 years after it was built, few town officials remembered that the access roadway was legal only as long as the dump was operating. The two remaining living members of the 1978 Conservation Commission, Sally Newbury and this writer, pointed that fact out early on to the Board of Public Works. But the BOPW ignored the issue.
DPW Director Don Ouellette maintains that the dump will be in operation indefinitely because occasional monitoring and testing of the capped landfill will be required for many years. Town Counsel Mark Lanza, referring to a technicality in the wording of the original Town Meeting article, supports Ouellette's contention.
And to deal with the inconvenient fact that the ConCom, under the 1978 arrangements, actually owns the land under the temporary road, Town Administrator Fred Turkington proposes that this spring's Annual Town Meeting begins the arduous process of transferring conservation land out of conservation ownership, which will eventually require a vote of the Massachusetts Legislature.
But the ConCom, under Chairman Andy Irwin, has been asserting its rights. And a document recently unearthed by this writer strengthens its hand. The project in 1978 required an Order of Conditions (OOC) from the Conservation Commission, issued under the state Wetlands Protection Act. The OOC explicitly refers to the road as temporary, and one provision says the ConCom has the right to require a whole new wetlands application if the purpose of the project changes to a substantial degree. Since the area being accessed is primarily now a transfer station rather than a dump, that point has been reached.
The transfer station could be moved elsewhere, like the front of the Route 20 property, and the limited access needed to test and monitor the dump is still available via River Road. So the only reason to keep the temporary access road open is to access a new, permanent DPW building. Which would make the road permanent. Which, according to the Order of Conditions, is illegal.
There is a potential resolution, but it's likely to cost a lot of money. There are provisions in the wetlands law which allow for the destruction of wetlands if there is compensation in the form of, for example, creation of new wetlands. Each of the damaging effects of the filling must be looked at and a compensating action designed.
To compensate for the loss of flood storage, for example, which effectively causes flood waters to rise higher elsewhere, new highland areas can be excavated to the same elevations as the original terrain pre-filling. Irwin says he is willing to see if mitigations can be designed to effectively restore all the wetlands functions lost in 1978. If not, the road will have to come out.
But no one has estimated the cost of such a course of action. At last year's Town Meeting, BOPW member Jon Mishara told the town that the cost of upgrading the road to use it for access to a new building would be $50,000. It is now clear that his number was, to put it mildly, an underestimate.
The clear alternative is to build the DPW building directly on Route 20, at the site of the now-closed septage facility. BOPW members claim there are significant conservation-related problems with that site. That does not seem to be deterring the Economic Development Committee from proposing a major housing project at that location, also coming before voters for approval at the spring Town Meeting.
But it may be that such problems could be mitigated in the same way that the road mitigations are possible. No one has scoped those out either. The BOPW was counting on a free lunch with the existing access roadway into the dump. Ultimately, a simple cost comparison of the net cost of the two approaches may determine the decision.
Ignoring or trying to bypass the issue is likely to prove most costly in the long run. Under similar pressure to meet calendar deadlines, environmental issues were bypassed more than a decade ago in the building of the Public Safety Building, resulting in a million dollars of flood damage and a basement that may never be dry. Environmental issues were ignored in the plans for the new wastewater treatment plant, resulting in millions of dollars of unplanned costs.
But DPW's Ouellette and BOPW member Tom Abdella recently described the roadway access problems as "not a big deal".
Nevertheless, project proponents want taxpayers to approve spending over $10 million to build a new DPW facility excluding the undetermined cost of the road. Their permitting process at the Conservation Commission will not be completed before Town Meeting. The DPW plans to hold a public forum about its incomplete proposal on March 28, just days before the vote.
ENVIRONMENTAL COMMENT PERIOD
A Feb. 14 legal notice published in the Wayland Town Crier from the Department of Environmental Protection announced a 30-day public comment period for a (draft) General Discharge Permit for the Town of Wayland Wastewater Treatment Plant discharge at the Town Building playing fields.
While town officials and residents are familiar with the popular athletic fields, most may know little or nothing about what senior staff and the wastewater commissioners have proposed for that location with little public discussion.
Wayland's Wastewater Management District Commission submitted an application to the state for a new groundwater discharge facility at the fields, 41 Cochituate Road, where the Town Building's existing septic leach field is located. Because of the area's high groundwater, the proposed structure is expected to be mounded, with varying grades.
The public now has until the close of business on Monday, March 18 to submit written comment to DEP officials, including the option of requesting a public hearing on the DEP's draft discharge permit.
The legal notice also refers to the following agency fact sheet about the applicable General Permit:
Citizen investigation resulted in last month's WVN newsletter #480 disclosing that Wayland Town Administrator Fred Turkington and Wastewater Management District Commission chair Fred Knight signed an Administrative Consent Order on Jan. 10 with the DEP committing to a new facility, essentially to accommodate the wastewater needs of Twenty Wayland's Town Center project by using an off-site location.
The DEP honored residents' requests for a public hearing almost two years ago when a similar 30-day comment period was announced, at that time for Twenty Wayland's DEP wastewater connection permit. Residents filled the Large Hearing Room for the DEP's May 19, 2011 public hearing and offered testimony about environmental concerns to the same state officials involved in the current matter.
That hearing was followed by the developer's threats to sue the Town, which it did, over fee disputes. The points of contention were, and still are, wastewater capacity and who will pay for it. More detailed background information is available in prior WVN newsletters:
None of the relevant January 2013 public documents about this groundwater discharge permit are posted on the town website. They have not been included by the town administrator in the selectmen's published 2013 meeting packets or reported by him at televised board meetings.
Further investigation has made it possible for the public to access the following documents at an independent website:
Jan. 15, 2013: Letter from the DEP to Town Administrator Fred Turkington
Jan. 15, 2013: Administrative Consent Order (ACO-NE-12-1N001)
Jan. 17, 2013: Application for a Groundwater Discharge Permit, Notice of Intent submitted by engineering consulting firm Tighe & Bond on behalf of the Town (without attachments)
Jan. 22, 2013: List of Wastewater Plant Customers Capacities
Jan. 24, 2013: Letter from the DEP to WWMDC Chair Fred Knight, with the last page showing the legal notice then published in the Wayland Town Crier on Feb. 14.
At its Feb. 13 meeting, the WWMDC acknowledged that abutters, such as the Trinitarian Church and private residences at 61 and 65 Cochituate Road, have not been informed by the Commission about this proposed project. The Recreation Commission, which oversees the use of these athletic fields, was not included in the project's planning.
An unofficial rough estimate cost of this capital improvement is about $1 million. That would include the construction of new pipes to carry Town Building sewage to the new wastewater plant at Town Center for it to be processed, with resulting commingled wastewater then piped back for discharge into the ground near the town hall baseball field.
This capital project is not listed in the Finance Committee's FY13 or FY14 capital budgets nor on the town's five-year capital plan. It is not clear who is expected to pay for it (e.g. Wayland taxpayers, wastewater plant customers). Town Meeting has never discussed this matter nor voted to appropriate money for the project's planning, design or construction. The WWMDC was formed to be financed solely by users of the system.
Yet this scheme was developed by senior staff and a legal commitment was made to the state, which means a considerable sum of money had to have been spent by someone since 2011 for the Order to have been negotiated and executed, including the engineering work required to support the groundwater discharge application submitted last month to the DEP.
Written public comment about the draft groundwater discharge permit should be addressed to Eric Worrall, MassDEP, NERO, Bureau of Resource Protection, 205B Lowell Street, Wilmington, MA 01887.
-- Linda Segal
WARRANT OPERATING BUDGET FORMAT PROPOSAL
On Feb. 15 residents Anette Lewis and Tony Boschetto, who have been advocating for greater transparency in the budget printed in the Town Meeting warrant booklet, met with John Senchyshyn, acting Wayland finance director/human resources director/assistant town administrator, and Tom Greenaway, Finance Committee vice chairman, to design a new operating budget format. Their proposed new format was presented at the Feb. 20 FinCom meeting.
This new draft format follows some of the suggestions from Article 4 of the Oct. 3, 2012 Special Town Meeting, a resolution which town officials and voters supported. These were to have more detailed subsidiary line items, a headcount budget and a format which compares the proposed budget to actual expenditures and staffing levels for two previous years and the appropriations and staffing levels for the current fiscal year.
The template format presented at the FinCom meeting included columns for expenditures from Fiscal 2011 and 2012 and appropriations from FY13 as well as the column for the requested FY14 budget.
For each department, information was included about the total FTEs (Full Time Equivalents - meaning employees) for each year. However, the number of subsidiary line items was virtually unchanged, listing only "salaries" and "purchase of services" in most cases.
Two exceptions were "Insurance 32B" which is to be renamed "Health/Life Insurance" and "Insurance General." It was suggested that the FTEs in "Health/Life Insurance" be broken down into "Employee Health Insurance", "Retiree Health Insurance", "Employee HRA Accounts", "Health Insurance Incentive Waiver", "Employee and Retiree Life Insurance" and "Other Expenses." Similarly, "insurance General" was broken down into six subcategories, the largest of which was "Medicare Tax".
There was also a long discussion about possibly breaking down the Department of Public Works line item into subcategories reflecting the previous organization of highway, landfill and parks. This proposal did not appear on the draft format document being discussed.
Once again FinCom bemoaned the tendency of the DPW director to use any excess funds from the capital budget for new projects not in the budget, without going to FinCom and Board of Public Works first. Usually, FinCom members said, these new projects are worthwhile, but perhaps not of highest priority.
The FinCom will continue working on budget presentation formats for the Town Meeting warrant at its upcoming Feb. 25 meeting.
-- Betty Salzberg
ANNUAL CIVICS BEE
Wayland residents will face teams from Sudbury and Weston in the fifth annual Civics Bee sponsored by the League of Women Voters on Sunday March 3 at the Weston Community Center, 20 Alphabet Lane. It's free and public.
Teams comprising three middle school students, three high school students and three adults will display their knowledge of federal, state and local government.
Teams from Sudbury, Wayland and Weston will vie for the League of Women Voters trophy in the fifth annual Civics Bee.
The Bee's theme this year will be the histories of the three towns. Weston is celebrating its 300th anniversary and Wayland its 375th, while Sudbury celebrates its 375th anniversary in 2014.
For more Information about Wayland teams, please contact Mary Antes at mantes2@...
Agendas are posted on town website home page meeting calendar: http://www.wayland.ma.us/Pages/index
Note the following public hearing postponements:
DPW project: ConCom public hearing continued until Feb. 28
Finnerty's: Planning Board public hearing continued until March 5
MONDAY, Feb. 25:
Protection of Trees Temporary Study Committee, 6 p.m., last fall's STM article 1, in NStar's clearcutting aftermath, submitted again for the spring 2013 Annual Town Meeting
Selectmen, 7 p.m. Vote on debt exclusion ballot question for proposed DPW project
Finance Committee, 7 p.m. April 2013 town meeting warrant articles, FY14 budget templates
Board of Health, 7 p.m. Public hearing at 7:35 p.m. for proposed floor drain regulation. More detailed information on town website and in this press announcement:
School Committee, 7 p.m. Presentation of Elementary School Building Use report, town meeting and FY14 budget hearing preparation, etc.
Board of Assessors, 7:30 p.m.
Residents may contact the office to reserve a time for public comment, in addition to the public comment at the end of the meeting.
TUESDAY, Feb. 26:
Design Review Board, 6 p.m. DPW project
Planning Board, 7:30 p.m. Public hearings for April Town Meeting warrant articles: River's Edge housing project zoning amendments, defining medical marijuana treatment center and identifying permitted district in Wayland's zoning bylaw, DPW project site plan approval.
Economic Development Committee, 7:30 p.m. Proposed River's Edge housing project, town meeting zoning overlay district warrant article and design guidelines draft.
Zoning Board of Appeals, 8:20 p.m.
WEDNESDAY, Feb. 27:
375th Anniversary Commemoration Committee, 7:30 p.m.
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Wayland Voters Network
Michael Short, Editor