Charts, graphs and other visuals: 2010 Archives
WHAT WILL THE TOWN OFFICIALS' CENTRALIZED SEWER COST PROPERTY TAXPAYERS? TOWN OFFICIALS WON'T SAY, SO CCT ESTIMATES
Chatham Concerned Taxpayers since last spring has been asking town officials to provide taxpayers with some real estimates of their costs for so-called Phase 1 of the Comprehensive Wastewater Management Plan (CWMP). Town officials have decided upon a big city centralized sewer system, which will extend to about two-thirds of Chatham's properties. The quoted cost estimate (now three years old) has been $240 million, which is a staggering sum. But the real amount is going to be a lot more because the construction period will be 20 years, costs will rise and interest will have to be paid on the money borrowed.
Taxpayer Cost of the Centralized Sewer System Proposed by Town Officials. Despite CCTs requests, the only estimate given out by any town official for Phase 1 was by Dr. Robert Duncanson. As reported in the Cape Cod Times of December 7, 2009, in an interview with a reporter Duncanson claimed that the average homeowner would only pay $3,500 over 20 years, or an average of $175 per year. Since the average cost for an individual property owner's connection to the sewer is estimated by town officials as $6,500, Dr. Duncanson's $3,500 does not even cover that cost let alone pay any part of the property tax cost of the centralized sewer system itself..
Therefore, CCT decided to do its best to inform taxpayers what kind of costs they might face. Working with na Excel spreadsheet program, using publicly available information and normal engineering estimating practices, the table which appears below was developed to show approximate costs for properties of different valuation, depending on whether they would be sewered in Phase 1 or not.
As we see it, the total cost of the town officials' plan could be in the range of $490 million up to $750 million. The table below uses $500 billion to calculate taxpayer costs, which almost certainly understates what the taxpayer costs will ultimately be.
The main capital costs of the system will be on the property tax and payable by all properties, sewered or not. Those sewered will individually pay a connection charge and monthly maintenance fees. These costs are factored in along with interest (best available from the state) and 3% inflation. The $10 million net benefit from the USDA loan/grant program ($10 million) is credited to the overall cost. Numbers are rounded to zero for easier reading. The spreadsheet which generated the chart can be accessed by clicking on the link at the end of this item.
Click on the table below to get a bigger picture.
To view the back-up spreadsheet, click link below:
Why talk about a sewer at all? There is only one reason for discussing such a system at all: It is believed that by removing "excess nitrogen" from Chatham's embayments the waters will be healthier. Assuming that's so, CCT raised a simple, straightforward question, "Isn't there a way to do that for a lot less money than what town officials are proposing?"
Better, cheaper alternatives. It didn't take long for CCT to discover indeed there was. Low cost neighborhood or cluster sewer systems which can perform the required nitrogen removal task at far less cost. They can be installed jn a much shorter time frame, will cause far less disruption to the community's way of life and are much friendlier to the environment. They will show positive results sooner, no waiting for more than 20 years to see if the centralized sewer system actually does the job.
CCT presented an informational forum on these alternatives in September and petitioned the selectmen (September 22, 2009) to undertake an evaluation process of these alternatives that have the potential of saving taxpayers 25% to 50% of the cost of the centralized sewer system town officials were proposing to build. That could be $100 million to $250 million. The selectmen refused. CCT argued that they had a fiduciary obligation to taxpayers to look into possible savings of this magnitude. Still they refused. The selectmen said alternatives had been considered four or so years back and none of them worked. CCT's investigation showed that the town had never considered an alternative system that could do the job of removing nitrogen as well as any modern large sewer treatment plant at far less cost. Still, the selectmen refused.
There must be a town meeting to vote on the entire CWMP. The third request CCT made to town officials was to put the CWMP to a town meeting for a vote of approval or disapproval before launching any implementation of their hugely expensive project. Shockingly, it appears as if they have no intention of doing so. CCT has learned that the treatment plant upgrade they are planning to do immediately will enlarge it to its 20-year capacity, making it impossible to incorporate any far less expensive alternatives into the nitrogen removal solution. Taxpayers would in effect be forced to vote for all the additional monies ($180 to $200 million) to spread sewer piping throughout the town to provide the large quantities of wastewater the enlarged plant needs to operate. No taxpayer who voted for the treatment plant enlargement on May 11, 2009 in Article 14 of the Warrant had any idea he was in effect being committed to paying for a half billion to a billion dollar project, because he wasn't told that would be the effect of his vote.