Bellingham Residents Vote to create Stormwater Enterprise Fund and Adopt Stretch Code
Nov 29, 2019 06:00AM
By Pamela Johnson
Town Planner Jim Kupfer
At Special Town Meeting in November, Bellingham voters approved Article 14, creating a Stormwater Management Enterprise Fund to commence July 2020, and Fred Civian of the MA Dept of Environmental Protection spoke on the article. The need for stormwater regulation stems from water-quality issues.
“We’ve done a very good job of cleaning up our largest rivers and streams across this country,” he said, “because what we’ve done is reduce the amount of pollution that comes from a fairly small number of large pipes, but when any organization, state, and federal governments look at our water quality in Massachusetts, particularly for our smaller streams, lakes, and ponds, we find that most of those rivers and streams don’t meet federal and state water-quality standards.” They found that the largest single source of pollution is pollutants carried by stormwater. This includes runoff from roads, parking lots, driveways, roofs, and yards, which contains debris, animal waste, chemical oil, leaves and other organic material.
The federal government enacted what’s called the MS4 system (municipal separate storm sewer system.) In 2003, Bellingham was covered under the first of these requirements (about three dozen), but in 2018 those requirements grew to a list of over two hundred administrative action items.
There are a significant number of costs associated with this program, according to Department of Public Works Director Don DiMartino. He estimates these costs in the neighborhood of $700,000, an amount that would have to be taken out of the General Fund if this article were not approved, leaching precious services from other departments, such as police, fire, and school. He pointed out that the town’s participation is not optional. According to town counsel, the enterprise funds were explained as an accounting mechanism that allows the town to reserve the money that’s paid for in fees to be used for the specific purpose. DiMartino estimated total charges for residents at approximately $15 a quarter for a single-family home, or $60 per year.
“Businesses with huge parking lots will pay a higher fee based on the expanse of impervious surface they have in comparison to a single-family home,” he added. Residents approved the creation of this fund in a 166 to 23 vote.
Residents finished the evening by adopting the stretch energy code, explained by Town Planner Jim Kupfer (pictured above). “The stretch code itself, as part of the building code, is not really a stretch anymore,” he said, but, “adopting this makes us eligible for green community status.” This in turn makes us eligible for grants, including an up-front grant of $155,000 to be used for energy-reduction solutions, such as energy-efficient HVAC systems or lighting in public buildings, with more grants available in the future. Kupfer pointed out that the code requirements will be for new buildings only; additions, renovations, and repairs are exempt. Residents agreed, and the article passed 110 to 10. It will be effective as of July 1, 2020.
Town Meetings are held twice a year, in May and November. While May’s Town Meeting is not yet scheduled, information and updates can be found at www.bellinghamma.org.