WVN #527: Worried residents unhappy with wastewater plan
- Dear Wayland Voter,
Facing a $1.2 million legal judgment and a court order to provide capacity demanded by the Town Center developer, Wayland’s wastewater commissioners want permission to build a costly alternative discharge site that would create a mound near town playing fields and private properties. Customers of the treatment plant are worried about skyrocketing costs, and other residents fear that all taxpayers will bear the burden. The commissioners aren’t very happy either.
Also in this newsletter: Planning next year’s town budget continues.
Please read the notice of your home’s new Fiscal 2014 preliminary assessment and contact the assessors’ office to make an appointment to discuss it if you think there is an error or have questions.
The notice is expected to arrive in the mail shortly.
Most of the basis for the value can be found at
http://gis.vgsi.com/WaylandMA/ http://gis.vgsi.com/WaylandMA/ or you may obtain a copy of the full record card for your property at the assessors’ office in town building. The deadline to remedy errors is Nov. 1. Office hours are Monday 8 a.m. to 7 p.m., Tues-Thurs 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. and Friday 8 a.m. to 12:30 p.m.
Payment of the quarterly FY14 preliminary tax bill is due Nov. 1.
WASTEWATER COMMISSION’S PLAN UPSETS RESIDENTS
The Wastewater Management District Commission (WWMDC) continues trying to resolve the Town Center developer’s long-standing legal dispute with the Town and the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) over discharge capacity in what several meeting attendees last week called a “total disaster.” Others called it a “mess.” Commissioner Sam Potter agreed and added personal frustrations.
After more than two hours of frank discussion among worried taxpayers, former and current plant customers, and the town’s attorney and engineering consultant, there seemed to be more questions and troubling revelations than solutions. The financial impact on customers and taxpayers in general is unknown.
Town Center developer Twenty Wayland, the biggest plant customer, wasn’t there. Also absent was the town’s facilities director, John Moynihan, the department head who oversaw the construction of the new $5.6 million treatment plant. http://www.wayland.ma.us/Pages/WaylandMA_BComm/Wastewater/index http://www.wayland.ma.us/Pages/WaylandMA_BComm/Wastewater/index
Proposal and Rationale
The meeting was billed as informational because the Commission has applied for a DEP permit to construct an alternative groundwater discharge at the athletic fields outside Town Building to benefit the Town Center project, at an estimated cost exceeding $1 million.
As in his recent Wayland Town Crier guest column, Commissioner Sam Potter said the DEP is not releasing all the discharge capacity he believes Wayland is entitled to. The DEP wants to see data based on actual flows to be sure that the plant will not discharge more wastewater into the Sudbury River than is allowed by the Commission’s federal discharge permit.
Twenty Wayland convinced a Superior Court jury in June that the town had breached a contractual obligation to provide 45,000 gallons per day. Shoring up its argument was a deposition by then Town Administrator Fred Turkington who testified that it was his understanding that the selectmen’s 1999 Memorandum of Agreement with a prior owner had been ratified by a Wayland Town Meeting. That assertion has been disputed by a number of citizens, including attorneys. The court awarded the developer more than $1.2 million in damages and still requires the town to deliver the wastewater capacity.
Before the trial, Turkington and Commission Chairman Fred Knight signed an Administrative Consent Order (ACO) in January 2013 entering into a legally binding agreement with the DEP committing Wayland to an alternative discharge facility, should it be needed.
Town counsel Mark Lanza described the ACO, and the audience pointed to that being among the steps taken all along the way without public awareness or authorization by town meeting. The WWMDC then followed up by applying to the DEP for a discharge permit.
The DEP has issued a draft permit for the proposal, which Tighe and Bond engineer Ian Catlow explained to the meeting audience. The permit is out for public comment until Nov. 8.
Potter encouraged comment from the public. Despite evident frustration and at times disagreement, discourse remained civil and even sympathetic towards the commissioners, who see no better solution.
One resident pointed out that there had been no town meeting authorization for the January legal agreement with DEP, for spending money on two years of design work, for funding legal costs, for using the land for this purpose, and there appears to be no approved plan for financing the proposal.
The Wastewater Commission is an Enterprise Fund which serves and is financed by users. The finances and funding are supposed to be separate from the town budget financed by taxpayers. But for years concerned citizens have warned that there were major issues with the wastewater plant and the costs would eventually be borne by taxpayers. Turkington’s signing of the Administrative Consent Order appears to validate those warnings. If he was authorized by selectmen to do so in an executive session, that was never publicly disclosed.
The audience expressed difficulty envisioning the proposed structure’s location and appearance. There was no clear site plan showing elevations, proximity to abutters on Cochituate Road, impacts to the athletic field or to open field views. Consultant Catlow explained it would abut the athletic field’s first base line and would be mounded, rising in elevation from about 4 to perhaps 8 feet, as the land slopes down towards the wetland. One resident said it might look like a drumlin. Potter tried to assure the public that the Commission hopes never to build it. But there’s no assurance that it won’t be required.
If a future town meeting ultimately rejects funding the proposal, town counsel said, the court could order the Town to pay for it anyway. One former plant customer expressed great concern for the economic hardship facing plant customers once higher costs are passed on to them in the former of increased fees and betterment charges. She said small businesses and residents at Wayland Commons condos cannot afford anticipated cost increases.
Given the ongoing litigation that includes Twenty Wayland’s disagreement over fees, no bills have been sent this year. Commissioners have yet to hold a public hearing for betterment charges, per the provisions of the enabling state statute:
No condo residents hooked up to the plant attended the meeting, nor did Cochituate Road abutters to the field. One business owner connected to the plant, also a Wayland resident, showed up. No announcement was sent out by the Commission to stakeholder boards. One recreation commissioner attended and stated he opposes the proposal, fearing impact to the playing fields.
Disclosures included the Commission’s reluctance to require that plant customers install flow meters. The Commission chairman said that meters are expensive, but the audience did not accept that answer and pressed the point several times during the evening. Flow meters for each user would quickly flag any unusual flow which could contribute to a discharge violation.
The audience also learned that a town employee has known for almost two years (and did nothing) about the leak in a pipe connection at the public safety building allowing illegal discharge of groundwater into the wastewater system. That employee’s name was not disclosed. Several attendees indicated they knew who it was but didn’t disclose it either.
While describing his study of possible locations for siting the proposed facility, engineer Catlow explained constraints on environmentally sensitive locations closer to the treatment plant. The former Raytheon property and Cow Common both lie in the Zone II for the Baldwin water wells. Catlow also wants to avoid Raytheon’s groundwater cleanup.
In that context he mentioned that the new high school’s wastewater treatment plant needs to have its treated discharge carted away each day. The high school is located in the zone II of nearby Happy Hollow wells, which provide up to half the town’s drinking water. Town Building is outside Zone II and is the closest town-owned land he could recommend.
Potter asked the audience what they thought the Commission should do. One resident recommended they go back and start over and do it right because none of what has happened made sense and the situation was such a mess, and it should not have to be so complicated. Other residents disagreed with town counsel that the DEP has been the problem by its conservative approach. The town’s strategy based on that premise failed at the trial. Several residents asked for assurances in writing that if the proposed alternative discharge is not needed for Twenty Wayland that it not be built for any other purpose. Town Counsel said the ACO could be amended.
A resident pointed out that neither the Town, the Commission nor the developer control the fact that permits issued by state and federal environmental protection agencies have time limits. They expire and must be renewed. That means there really is no permanent solution to ensure that anyone discharging into the river will always have the right to do so and at what rate.
With the federal permit now up for renewal, Catlow helped the Commission apply to increase the discharge capacity up to 80,000 gallons per day. The rationale is that if a new treatment plant is built to handle much more flow and whose treated water is so clean that Potter joked he would even drink it, why not be allowed to discharge more into the river if the pollutant load would be an improvement?
Catlow has discussed the engineering with DEP officials, whom he described as receptive to the environmental protection benefits. It remains to be seen what the federal agency will do and when. Some towns have been waiting for years for permit renewals. If applications are timely, existing federal permits continue.
Some meeting attendees suggested the Town pursue a legal appeal now that the judge has rejected Wayland’s request for reconsideration of the June judgment. Potter told the audience that an appeal would take years and would not relieve the requirement to deliver the discharge capacity. Potter said that if Wayland does not perform, the developer could drag the Town back into court again, which provides motivation to seek approval for the proposed alternative.
Waiting in the wings is Brendon Homes, the developer offering to build a housing project at Town Center. Its Purchase and Sale agreement with Twenty Wayland has a clock ticking on it, but the project cannot be built until it is demonstrated that the proposed 42 housing units would be able to flush toilets. It was disclosed by town counsel at the September WWMDC meeting that even though the DEP recently released almost 8,400 gallons per day from the 17,000 it had withheld since June 2011, Twenty Wayland won’t provide it to Brendon Homes, preferring to reserve it for the Phase II retail portion of its project.
The discussion ended with a comment from the audience that the developer is the culprit, not the DEP, and then a question: why didn’t Twenty Wayland show up to face the public? Also absent were any of the selectmen who served at the time when commitments to provide 45,000 gallons per day were reaffirmed in multiple letters in 2007 from Turkington to the developer’s attorney and when selectmen renegotiated the Development Agreement in October 2009. That renegotiation linked a portion of the $3 million contracted developer “gift “to the Town to a complicated formula tied to the sale of 88 housing units, twice the number of units now planned.
Attendees also said they could not understand the Commission’s reluctance to exercise its authority to require flow meters be installed to hold all customers accountable for their use of the treatment plant, other than hearing that Twenty Wayland allegedly objects to it. That suggestion to promote transparency, fairness and sound management practice often has been made at Commission meetings by residents and plant customers. A resident suggested the Commission consider hiring a professional staff person.
WayCAM’s recording of the meeting is available at:
The meeting is also scheduled to be rebroadcast several times this week.
Public Comment Period Closes Nov. 8
Notice of the 30-day public comment period was published in the Oct. 9, 2013 Environmental Monitor:
Catlow’s Engineering Design Report explaining this proposal is available at:
Check Figure 1-1 to see the multiple locations of the features of the proposal. Then scroll down to page 99 out of 105 to find Sheet 3, the drawing of the proposed structure at the field, with elevations. The abutting properties, e.g. Trinitarian Church parcels and homes at 43, 61, and 65 Cochituate Road, are not clearly marked.
The draft DEP permit is available at:
Written public comment to DEP about the WWMDC’s requested permit must be filed by the close of business on Friday, Nov. 8, 2013.
FY15 BUDGET PLANNING CONTINUES
Wayland Finance Director Brian Keveny is leading the Town through his first full budget planning season since joining Wayland’s senior management staff last March. With most Finance Committee meetings recorded and rebroadcast by WayCAM, residents are getting to know who he is and his management of the town’s finances. Keveny is credited with bringing clarity, consistency and organization as he worked with his senior staff colleagues to close out the town’s FY13 budget season ending last June 30.
This Monday evening, the Board of Selectmen have multiple financial agenda items planned, beginning with a discussion with Keveny at 7:25 p.m.
In preparation for that discussion, Keveny has completed and posted various reports on the town’s website:
It has not been easy for him to sort out some of what occurred before he was hired. For example, Keveny has worked to evaluate encumbrances and carryovers so there is greater oversight to ensure that taxpayers’ money is spent as intended and approved.
The Department of Revenue certified Wayland’s free cash as of July 1, 2013 at $4,091,958. This is the figure the Finance Committee used to decide how much more free cash to spend on the FY14 operating budget. At its Oct. 16 meeting, the FinCom voted to suggest spending $900,000 of this money as well as $350,000 from the overlay return from assessors to reduce the amount taxpayers pay for the FY14 operating budget. This will come before voters at the Nov. 20 special town meeting. If the FinCom’s warrant article passes, about $3.2 million will be left in free cash.
Around $1.5 million of free cash was spent in FY13 for the high school construction project. This money should have come from already approved borrowing. However, the approved borrowing had not yet taken place. This borrowing will take place in February 2014, but the money cannot be used until it is certified by the state on July 1, 2014. At that point it can be returned to free cash.
The selectmen’s discussion is also expected to include these FY14 first quarter reports.
The FY15 budget planning season is well underway, beginning with budget guidelines published on Sept. 30. The first deadline is Monday, Oct. 28, when FY15 capital budget proposals are due. Operating budgets are due on Nov. 22. Additional information, including the FY15 list of FinCom liaisons with departments, is available here:
The selectmen will continue working with the Personnel Board on the town administrator search, interviewing the Collins Center consulting firm to learn what assistance is proposed.
2014 ANNUAL ELECTION AND TOWN MEETING DATES SET
Selectmen voted to hold the spring town election on Tuesday, April 1, 2014.
Annual Town Meeting will begin on Thursday, April 3, 2014, continued to Monday, April 7, Tuesday April 8, and, if necessary, Thursday, April 10. Selectmen decided not to hold a Sunday town meeting session.
MEETINGS CALENDAR – All town government meetings take place in Wayland Town Building unless otherwise noted.
Click on the date on the calendar and then the names of boards/committees for links to posted meeting agendas.
Monday, Oct. 28:
Selectmen, 7 p.m.
Audit Committee, 7 p.m.
Board of Health, 7 p.m.
School Committee, 7 p.m. Police Headquarters, Boston, to meet with parents
Assessors, 7:15 p.m.
Wednesday, Oct. 30:
Health Department’s Free Flu Clinic: 3 to 7 p.m.
Energy Initiatives Advisory Committee, 4 p.m.
Wayland Cares Review Committee, 5 p.m. Review draft report
Thursday, Oct. 31:
Energy Initiatives Advisory Committee, 5 p.m.
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Wayland Voters Network
Michael Short, Editor