The Barnstable County Commissioners were pleased to announce in May 2006 the enactment of Chapter 35 of the Acts of 2006 allowing Barnstable County to borrow funds directly from the Massachusetts Water Pollution Abatement Trust for the County’s Community Septic Management Program. The passage of this legislation, a follow-up to the enactment of Chapter 381 of the Acts of 2004, also allows the County to assess betterments to secure the loans. State Senator Robert O’Leary and State Representatives Shirley Gomes and Cleon Turner, supported by the entire Cape delegation, sponsored the legislation, which is unique in the state. Previously only cities and towns had the authority to borrow and assess betterments for this program.
The Community Septic Management Program previously provided loans to County residents to upgrade failed septic systems to Title 5 standards. Barnstable County had contracts with all 15 Cape towns for the administration of this program, which has supported 1200 septic system upgrades totaling over $8.5 million since the inception of the program in 1997.
With special effort and support by O’Leary, Gomes, Turner, and Barnstable Commissioner Chair William Doherty and Vice Chair Mary LeClair, passage of the legislation makes an important program much more effective. According to Community Septic Management Program Administrator Kendall Ayers, with the legislation in place there will be no need for individual Town Meeting authorization (Town Council in Barnstable) to appropriate money, and no lag period (potentially for nine months to one year) between the time towns run out of money and the receive local approval for additional funding. It eliminates the potential for a serious health issue while a homeowner awaits funding for what might otherwise be a cost-prohibitive project.
Presently the County has the authority from the Assembly of Delegates to borrow $30 million from the Water Pollution Abatement Trust for loan purposes. With access to this initial pool of funds there will be no limitation on the availability of money in any town nor will there be a fee for the County’s services. The County will now be able to undertake all aspects of this program on behalf of Cape towns including the billing and collecting of homeowner payments. It is anticipated that $4 to $4.5 million dollars in loans will be made on an annual basis.
“The County has worked of this for (several) years,” said Representative Gomes. “It is one more way that the County uses a regional approach to offer assistance to the individual in Barnstable County. I am very pleased that the Governor recognizes the work being done at the County level by signing this legislation.”
“This is a good bill for the County,” said Senator O’Leary, one of the bill’s sponsors. “This legislation sets up a more efficient loan program, one that will make it easier to adhere to wastewater regulations-this has been a longstanding priority.”
Ayers added, “We are very pleased to be able to offer low interest rate loans to the residents of Barnstable County for the upgrade of increasingly expensive failed septic systems. This program will also help protect our natural resources and groundwater supplies by ensuring the availability of funding to qualified homeowners unabated into the future. This is one example of a Barnstable County regional approach toward solving wastewater issues vs. a town by town approach to a continuing problem.”
In the nine years Barnstable County has been directly administering loans to the residents of all Cape towns, over $35 million has been committed for septic system upgrades. This translates into 3,000 projects. The loans carry a 5% interest rate over a 20-year repayment period. It is expected that funding will remain available into the foreseeable future.