Yarmouth, Dennis and Harwich would pool resources for treatment facility.
BOSTON — Special legislation to create a wastewater partnership between Dennis, Harwich and Yarmouth has been filed by state lawmakers, now that language in the bill has been approved by all three towns’ boards of selectmen.
“The legislation doesn’t require us to spend a nickel. It doesn’t even require us to come to an agreement,” Yarmouth Town Administrator Daniel Knapik said just before that town’s selectmen approved the language last week. “This is associated with empowering the partnership — the three towns — to come together, to pool their resources to have a regional facility.”
The bill, which establishes the DHY Clean Waters Community Partnership, was filed jointly Friday by state Reps. Sarah Peake, D-Provincetown, Timothy Whelan, R-Brewster, and William Crocker, R-Centerville, and state Sen. Julian Cyr, D-Truro, according to a statement issued Tuesday by Whelan’s office.
The bill would allow the towns to continue working on an agreement that stipulates how a plausible wastewater partnership would operate. The agreement would then require approval by all three boards and town meetings, possibly in the spring.
Under the current plan, wastewater from all three towns would be treated at a central plant in Dennis, saving the towns a combined $100 million over installing individual systems, according to David Young, vice president of engineering firm CDM Smith.
The Yarmouth selectmen became the last of the three boards to approve the language with a unanimous vote last week. Last month, the Dennis selectmen also unanimously approved the language, and the Harwich selectmen approved it with a 4-1 vote.
The bill will soon be referred to the Joint Committee on Municipalities and Regional Government for a public hearing, according to the statement. Once approved by the committee, the bill will go to the House floor and then to the Senate for a vote.
Because passage of the legislation does not require a roll-call vote, there is a chance it could be approved before the end of the fall legislative session, according to the statement.
Officials from all three towns have voiced concerns that the legislative language does not allow for direct voter input over how much the partnership could potentially spend.
Several selectmen said enough safeguards exist in the process to make them feel comfortable approving the language.
“We can put those concerns in the agreement,” Paul McCormick, chairman of the Dennis Board of Selectmen, said Friday, explaining that the agreement could be used to stipulate spending caps.
Also, although the partnership would have the authority to borrow money without requiring approval from the selectmen or voters, the commissioners making the spending decisions would be appointed by the selectmen, according to Knapik.
“You give your marching orders to your commissioners,” Knapik said. “They represent you there.”
Once the plant is up and running, user fees should cover its operating costs and any future improvements that might be required, Knapik said.
“Once you get enough ratepayers, it becomes self-sustaining going forward,” he said.
“The only reason that this is good to move forward is that we have to get to town meeting with the agreement to see if they even support it,” she said. “And if they don’t support it, we have no binding commitment to this at all at that point.”
Selectman Mark Forest, who has represented Yarmouth in regional talks about the partnership in the past year, said approving the legislation would give officials a chance to learn more about the potential cost impacts.
“Some people want to make that a big mystery,” he said, “but I don’t think it’s going to be that big of a mystery. I think we will know going into town meeting what this thing is going to cost to build ... and we’ll have to have a game plan in terms of how to fund it.”