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A video detailing how and why Westford officials set a fee to raise funds for stormwater management is available for viewing.
The 15-minute documentary, produced by Westford Community Access Television, is narrated by Selectman Chairman Elizabeth Almeida, who also wrote the script.
[Continue reading below]
Video by Patty Stocker
Its purpose is to educate voters at the Oct. 28 special Town Meeting about Article 6, which seeks almost $75,000 to purchase Munis Software and hire a consultant to help merge the new system with the existing one. The software will help collect a newly imposed fee related to the amount of impervious surface contained on residential and commercial properties.
Town officials spent the past several months discussing how to fund the federal mandate to upgrade stormwater management, ultimately approving a fee that charges property owners for how much pavement covers their property. The square footage includes a roof.
Fees per property range from $37.50 to $150 per year.
The five tiered options for single family residences would follow these guidelines:
- For properties with less than 2,000 square feet of impervious surface, the fee would be $37.50 per year.
- Those with 2000 to 2,900 square feet would pay $52.50 annually.
- Square footage greater than 2,900 but less than 4,100, would pay $75 per year.
- A fee of $97.50 would be assessed to properties with 4,100 to 5,500 square feet of impervious surface.
- Above 5,500 square feet, property owners would be charged $150 per year.
The fee is designed to raise $1M over each of the next three years to fill a gap in the fiscal 2020 municipal budget, which includes $600K for stormwater management — funding that would not be enough to cover the required federal improvements, according to Almeida.
“Because of these mandates, aging pipes, culverts and catch basins in our drainage system will require more maintenance and replacement with every passing year,” said Almeida.
Drinking water comes from stormwater. Streaming water collects debris, such as pet waste, fertilizers, dirt and sediment, car oil and antifreeze, Almeida said. The result harms rivers, streams and lakes. Stony Brook, Beaver Brook, and Tadmuck Brook, all in Westford, do not meet clean water act goals, due to stormwater pollution, she added.
“Since 2003, the town has stayed in compliance,” Almeida said. “In 2016, a master plan was created to comply with the more stringent standings.”
If left unfunded, the community would possibly face a financial penalty, according to officials.
In the video, Almeida explains why selectmen included Articles 6 and 7 on the special Town Meeting warrant. To open the meeting requires a quorum of 200 voters.
Article 6 seeks approval to purchase Munis software at a cost of almost $75K to make it more orderly for staff members to account for and collect the new fee. Along with the software, selectmen are also supporting the creation of an enterprise fund to keep the fee payments separate from the general fund and ensure the money is used for stormwater maintenance.
In Article 7, voters will be asked to allow town officials to defer stormwater utility fees for eligible low income seniors.
“The objective in all of this,” Almeida said, “is to keep our drinking clean from contaminants by meeting the federal mandates and to avoid costly fees if they’re found to be non-compliant.”