School board asks for support
On behalf of the Colchester students, I ask for your support of the school district when you consider voting on Town Meeting Day, March 5, 2019.
Unlike what is going on in Washington, the Colchester School Board has been hard at work completing the budget process for the 2020 budget that has been submitted for your perusal. Details can be found on the Colchester School District website.
Without the assistance of the Federal and State officials to change or modify present laws, we are somewhat stymied for change. In our examination and deliberation of the budget, the question of property tax relief, special education costs, student-teacher ratios, and maintaining numerous educational sites always rise to the surface. The Board is keenly aware of these issues and strives to balance the educational needs of the students with the financial needs of the taxpayer.
I believe the hard work of the School Board, in partnership with the town, can be reflected in our community being named as one of the best places to live in America by Money Magazine. This would not be realized without our citizen’s support, encouragement and community spirit.
So in conjunction with the town, please join us on Town Meeting Day to vote. Again, WE ask for your support for our students and our schools.
Vote ‘yes’ on sewer proposal
Twenty years ago, I served on Colchester’s Planning Commission. I opposed the Town’s plans for a sewer based on information available to me as a member of the Commission. However, it would have been wrong for me to speak out as an individual since the Commission was not taking a position. I took no public position at that time.
However, I privately shared my reasons with key people in the Town. Most importantly, I spent an hour with one of the editors of the Colchester Chronicle, Guy Page’s wife, on the hill at Bayside Beach. She took the extraordinary position of writing an editorial position opposing her husband’s position in support of the Town’s 1999 sewer plan. There were two opposing editorials on either side of the front page. Her editorial detailed each of the concerns I shared with her. That sewer plan was voted down.
I am no longer serving the Town so I am free to share my views with you directly. Last time:
- All taxpayers would have paid to build the sewer even if they could not use it.
- Owners of Diversity Hill, undevelopable without a sewer, would be enriched at taxpayers’ expense.
- Your Planning Commission had insufficient time to evaluate the impacts of a sewer and there was no time to revise the Zoning maps to prevent inappropriate development.
- People were going to be charged for connections to the system as well as pay for their use.
- There was only anecdotal evidence the Bay was being polluted by failed septic systems.
The plan before the voters this March has successfully addressed each of my original concerns.
- All taxpayers who are not connected to the sewer will not pay for it. While local option taxes (LOT)) will be borrowed to initially lower costs; any LOT used will be paid back in full by the folks using the sewers.
- The town excluded key areas where new development would be possible only with a sewer such as Diversity Hill.
- The Planning Commission has reviewed the zoning for the planned length of the sewer and made changes after getting input from a number of citizens. Any new development will be appropriate for the East and West Lakeshore drive areas served by the new sewer.
- People who use the sewer will be required to pay for it based on their consumption, with this new plan, but they will not have to pay for connections to the sewer. Over the next 50-years, the Town estimates their total costs will be less than septic system upgrades they would have had to make.
- There is now sufficient evidence that failed septic systems cause some pollution in the Bay
I have read recent letters trying to convince you to vote no on the sewer. Those letters have failed to note steps the town has already taken and plans to address storm water disposal and point source pollution as part of its overall water quality efforts. The sewer is an essential component of the Town’s efforts to preserve Mallets Bay. I am urging you to vote yes on the sewer. This time, voting yes will cost most of you nothing (no new taxes), your Town will not be ruined by inappropriate development, you will not be tricked into paying to enrich big developers, and you will help the Town implement its plans to protect the Bay for all Colchester citizens, fishermen, boaters, swimmers, and viewers. We live in a beautiful Town. Let’s keep it that way.
Funding sewer with LOT risky business
The town says it will use local option tax (LOT) revenue (i.e., I found out that this is the money we get from taxing commercial stores in Colchester) this will be used to help pay for the proposed $14.3 million Malletts Bay Sewer.
Upfront, the town will spend $2.1 million in LOT money to launch the sewer. It will then use $250,000 a year in LOT revenue over 30 years to help pay down the almost $9 million of sewer debt. As those of us with mortgages know, using promises of future money to pay off bank loans is risky business. This piled on with other future Colchester Town needs will put a greater long-term debt and taxes on our community.
Concerned, in this time of online shopping. About $500,000 a year of LOT revenue comes from just one big box store, COSTCO. Will COSTCO be in Colchester in 15, 20, 30 years? Who knows? No one ever thought Filene’s or Macy’s would leave Burlington. Or that Sears, once the largest retailer in the US, would file for bankruptcy in 2018.
If COSTCO or another big retailer leaves town, who will pick up the debt payment? Again, this doesn’t take rocket science to know that we taxpayers will get stuck with the bill, driving up our already outrageous property taxes.
As a reminder, in 2015, the town told us that LOT revenue would be used to retire debt and drive down property taxes. According to the town clerk, however, our property taxes have gone down just once since LOT was passed. It went from $1.979 to $1.955 in 2015-2016. But that’s it. Right now, it is $2.065 and Colchester is still $4 million in debt.
Please be involved.
Thank you for water quality work
Recently there has been a lot of attention given to the proposed Malletts Bay Sewer Project to address the primary source of human waste bacteria within inner Malletts Bay. While this project is important for the Bay and the community at large, it is one piece of a much larger more comprehensive plan to address water quality in the Bay. To that end, I wanted to take some time to acknowledge and thank all of the citizens of Colchester, volunteers, and various Town employees who have worked tirelessly for the past decade on addressing all of the challenges that face the Bay. To date your accomplishments have included;
- An extensive public visioning process to create a long term vision for the Bay.
- The development and adoption of revised zoning for the Bay that will reduce stormwater runoff.
- The completion of over $3 million in stormwater improvements.
- The development and adoption of a stormwater utility.
- The development of over $6 million in stormwater improvements for the Bay.
- Securing $500,000 in grants for stormwater improvements in the Moorings Stream watershed.
- The development of phosphorus control plans to reduce phosphorus levels in the Bay.
- The development of a plan to locate and eliminate illegal discharges.
- Applied for grant funds to implement a residential stormwater retrofit program to reduce impervious surfaces.
- Community based stormwater watch groups.
- Organization of rain barrel workshops.
- Stormwater basin stenciling programs.
- Participation in a regional plan to educate the public on water quality including pet waste management.
- Placing pet waste stations in our Town parks and beach areas.
- Managing bacteria at our beaches by reducing the size of dock spaces, erecting various seagull and geese deterrent systems, removing and disposing of bird waste from the beach area, and posting signs reminding bathers to use the restrooms provided.
- Performing regular water quality sampling of streams draining to Malletts Bay looking for the presence of bacteria and working toward identifying and eliminating the sources.
- Working on educational materials for marinas to educate boaters on Bay friendly boating practices, including proper disposal of waste.
These are some of the highlights of the collective efforts from citizens, volunteers, and Town employees who care about Malletts Bay and recognize that a comprehensive plan is needed to address our challenges. Some of the discussions regarding the sewer project have unfortunately failed to acknowledge all of your great work and I wanted to publicly thank you for your efforts.
Bryan K Osborne
Colchester Director of Public Works