Yarmouth still on track for sewer, dump fees

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YARMOUTH — The Town Council continues to discuss sewer fees, saying they would cost average users roughly $300 a year if adopted.

The council last week reviewed a potential plan that includes a July 1, 2014, implementation date with semi-annual payments. The plan includes three payment tiers and a variable rate for the largest users.

Town buildings would be exempt, but nonprofits, veterans halls and senior housing would not. A free, tri-annual pump-out service and a septic replacement subsidy would be discontinued.

The council has discussed its Dec. 19 meeting as a possible time for a vote.

Chairman Steve Wood stressed that the council is not ready to make any decisions about the fee, and encouraged the public to get informed and express its opinion on the subject.

“It’s important to have a dialogue,” he said. “That’s why we’re spending months talking about it.”

The council also continued its discussion of a possible transfer station sticker fee, saying the program could see a “soft opening” as early as Jan. 1. The first month or two of the new year would be used to educate residents and give them time to purchase a sticker, either at Town Hall or the transfer station.

Councilors said the stickers could cost $25 or $50. Town Manager Nat Tupper said it is difficult to know how many people would buy the stickers; he estimated revenues between $37,000 and $110,000 in the program’s first year.

Councilor Pat Thompson said sticker fees would risk alienating residents and “jeopardizing the cleanliness of the town of Yarmouth,” because some residents who refuse to pay would instead dump their trash illegally. She and Councilor David Craig voted against even putting the issue on November’s agenda, although the measure passed 4-2.

The council voted unanimously on several other measures, including one that will enable the town to partner with the town of Cumberland and Cumberland County for assessor services.

Under the arrangement, the county will hire Gary James, a native New Englander who works in the Charlestown County, S.C., assessor’s office, to serve as the assessor for both Yarmouth and Cumberland. Yarmouth and Cumberland have shared an assessor for the past nine years, but they each held separate employment relationships. There may be future opportunities for other towns to join the cost-and-personnel-sharing program.

The council also voted 6-0 to amend its shellfish conservation ordinance so that commercial diggers are no longer required to perform eight hours of conservation work annually in order to renew their licenses. That clause, which was adopted at the suggestion of the Department of Marine Resources, has recently run other towns into trouble with the U.S. Department of Labor, which said the conservation work constituted unpaid forced labor.

Asked how the town would make up the lost hours of conservation work, Tupper said, “It is (the diggers’) livelihood and in their interest to work together to conserve the resources. So if it’s survey work or reseeding areas or dealing with the green crabs or any other items that they want to volunteer to help with, or recruit other people to help with, it’s a very viable, self-interested thing. But it’s not a mandate.”

The council on Oct. 17 also adopted a resolution honoring veterans on the 60th anniversary of the end of the Korean War; appropriated $28,000 to repair rotted, exposed soffits at the North Road Fire Station, and issued a liquor license to Pat’s Pizza on Route 1.

Brendan Twist can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 123 or btwist@theforecaster.net. Follow him on Twitter: @brendantwist.