Barnstable Officials Lay Out Details on Sewering Plan

Screenshot of Barnstable Sewer Meeting

Town Manager Mark Ells, Finance Director Mark Milne, and Assistant DPW Director Rob Steen gave a Zoom presentation Wednesday morning to the Cape Cod and Islands Association of Realtors on its Comprehensive Water Management Plan (CWMP) and fielded questions from REALTORS®. The Sewer Assessment Bylaw, a main topic of discussion, is a key piece of how to fund that expansion.

Barnstable’s Comprehensive Water Management Plan

The science-based, state-approved CWMP includes:

  • Extending sewer service to nearly 12,000 Barnstable properties,
  • Upgrading the Hyannis Wastewater Treatment Plant
  • Strategies to meet 100% removal of nitrogen from wastewater to meet Federal clean water standards in the Town of Barnstable

The three phases of the plan will take place from 2021-2030, 2031-2040, and 2041-2050. The town manager’s department has mapped out which parcels would be available for hook up to town lines in each phase. The first phase will access 4,700 properties; the second, 3,800; and the third, 2400. The map, which also depicts areas that have already been sewered, can be found below.

Barnstable Sewer Plan
The Town of Barnstable's 3 phase sewer plan

Paying for the Plan

The town needs to finance more than 50% of the plan. They have dedicated funds through several initiatives to date:

  • 33 percent of the 6% room occupancy tax on hotel and motel stays
  • 100 percent of the 0.75% local meals tax
  • 100 percent of the 6% room occupancy tax on short-term rentals
  • User rate revenue from new connections

Another approximately one quarter of the $1.4 billion project will be funded through the proposed sewer assessment ordinance. This assessment is a one-time assessment on newly sewered dwelling units. The assessment can be financed, so that it can be included on quarterly tax bills over the next 30 years which will defer upfront costs to the property owner. Anyone currently on sewer, or who would not be hooked up, would not be assessed under this plan.

The estimated sewer assessment will be, on average, $17,000 per residential dwelling. This was determined by 25 percent of the average estimated cost of sewering per unit, plus a 4%t current median residential assessment, and taking into account that connection to sewering could increase property values to such units by 6 to 13 percent.

Finance Director Milne said he figured that hookup costs could also be placed into escrow to be financed. He presented three connection cost scenarios and estimated costs.

  • Scenario 1: ½ acre lot assuming septic system in the front -$4,200
  • Scenario 2: ½ acre lot assuming wastewater pipe is below roadway elevation and a so-called grinder pump will be required - $5,950
  • Scenario 3: ½ acre lot assuming septic is in the rear=$7,900

In the end, based on combined assessment and connection coasts, the homeowner would expect to pay quarterly payments of $304 under scenario 1, $329 under scenario 2, and $357 under scenario 3 through financing the assessment.

Town Manager Mark Ells noted that no assessment will be made until the sewer is operational in front of a property, meaning a homeowner would not start paying the assessment until they are able to access operational sewer.

While the town is removing road surfaces to lay sewer pipes, the DPW will also be addressing drainage issues on the roads, as well as repaving them as they work through the sewering plan. The town manager noted that this is an added value to the sewering program.

The assessment is tied to the homeowner, not the property. When a sale of a home that has an outstanding assessment, a it will be learned of it through the municipal lien check.

The reminder of the cost will be funded by the Town’s General fund. As of right now, that number cannot be determined. Given issues of rising labor and equipment costs, they will be reviewing and modifying plan costs on increments of every 5 years and will make changes to the total bill and the general fund contribution accordingly.

If a homeowner is replacing a septic system and they are scheduled for Phase 1, they are encouraged to reach out to Barnstable DPW to not incur the replacement cost and then a sewer assessment.

There will be time for continued public discussion on the assessment ordinance when the plan is brought to Town Council in April. “Residents need to be hands-on and engaged,” said Ells. “Everyone will be impacted.”


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