Westborough stormwater utility proposal to be part of warrant

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Westborough stormwater utility proposal to be part of warrant
Debris gathers on top of the grate to an inlet on Fisher Street. (Photo/Maureen Sullivan)

WESTBOROUGH – The Department of Public Works will have several articles on this spring’s Town Meeting warrant — two of which will involve establishing an enterprise fund to help maintain the town’s stormwater management system.

Department of Public Works Director Chris Payant said the fund is needed because the town’s stormwater system is aging. There are issues with flooding and water quality, as well as with failing infrastructure.

“There’s always been a funding gap, and it’s increasing,” said Payant during the Select Board meeting on Dec. 13.

He cited not only aging infrastructure, but also state mandates and capital improvements as reasons he believes a user fee is needed.

Payant and Woodard + Curran, a design and engineering firm specializing in water and environmental projects, have been working to identify priorities within the system; how much those priorities could cost; and how those costs could be handled.

Over several meetings with town boards, the outline of the proposed stormwater utility fund has started to come into focus.

Similar to water and sewer, it would treat stormwater management as a utility. The establishment of an enterprise fund is estimated to raise $1.5 million annually.

Town officials have discussed using a tiered-rate approach for single-family residential properties and a multiplier approach for all other properties.

Further, officials have said that implementing this fund will be a process, and both town leaders and residents will get the opportunity to review information and make decisions.

The proposed articles would authorize the town to charge a fee for stormwater by establishing a bylaw and to establish an enterprise account and appropriate funding to implement a stormwater utility.

Establishing a stable source of funding “is the way we want to move forward,” said Select Board member Allen Edinberg.

“It’s a matter of being more strategic,” he said.

Edinberg added that the cost of not making a change could lead to more extensive — and expensive — repairs down the road.

Several communities in the area have adopted stormwater utility fees, including Franklin and Shrewsbury. Franklin charges a flat fee, while Shrewsbury uses a tiered system.

Current plans call for the DPW to provide a fact sheet around the third week of January, with at least two public meetings scheduled for February.

Annual Town Meeting will convene on Saturday, March 25, at the high school auditorium.

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