The Malletts Bay sewer project was shot down by voters on Town Meeting day 1,396 to 1,203, denying the town use of millions of dollars of local option tax funds to connect bay residents to the municipal sewer.
The project was just one of many planned updates to the bay area, outlined in the Malletts Bay Initiative plan, to combat degrading water quality through stormwater and wastewater improvements. Now that the sewer project has been shot down, that leaves the town asking, what’s next?
At the pre-Town Meeting address, public works director Bryan Osborne explained the town doesn’t have a plan b because they believed the sewer update to be the best option.
He said the town could go back over the alternative projects suggested in the Environmental Protection Agency-funded study completed several years ago, but acknowledged that option is “not favorable” because professional engineers and scientists spent years vetting those options and determined the sewers were the best solution.
Technical services manager Karen Adam said the town will take a couple of months to regroup and figure out what’s next for the sewer project, whether to adjust the project or scrap it completely in favor of another solution. She said the town will survey residents to see what went wrong and then address possible solutions.
“We need to both better understand why we didn’t get a successful vote and understand the concerns that folks have that led them to vote no on the ballot item,” Adams said.
No matter the proposed solutions, Adams said it doesn’t change the fact that the bay doesn’t have the proper environment for on-site wastewater systems, and the town will have to do something to address the failing infrastructure.
“We’re not really able to have the luxury of just saying, ‘Okay, well that didn’t work, so I guess we’ll take some time to try again later,’” she said.
Adams added the state loan funding the town was eligible for with the previous sewer project is still available to them. However, whether they can obtain it again depends on the merits of the new or revised project.
In addition, Adams said the town is still interested in having some wastewater project completed before other stormwater and transportation improvements are made to the bay area, due to the logistics of wastewater infrastructure having to be installed the furthest underground.
“All the stormwater projects that we’re working on are still going to move forward,” she explained. “We’re just going to try and package them with whatever is the wastewater solution in the bay to make sure that we’re not stopping something from occurring in the future, should the winds change on that issue.”
Eventually, Adams said, the public works office will work with the selectboard for guidance on where to go next and present new options. No matter the outcome, she said the town will continue to work towards an end goal of ultimately protecting Malletts Bay from pollution.
“We’re certainly not willing to stop our efforts to address the wastewater solution,” she said.