DRACUT -- The Board of Selectmen on Tuesday pushed Town Manager Jim Duggan to explore alternative options to a biannual fee for taxpayers as a way for Dracut to comply with new federal stormwater regulations.
Selectmen Chair Jesse Forcier said there's been a "ton of talk" throughout town about the recommended fee and that he's heard a lot of negativity around it. The fee would be used to comply with what's known as a five-year MS4 permit. MS4 stands for Municipal Separate Storm Sewer Systems, which are designed in part to collect or convey stormwater.
Though the MS4 permit became effective on July 1, 2018, Town Manager Jim Duggan has said his administration proposed implementing the fee until the last possible moment because he understands the financial implications to all property owners of the town. Duggan is currently preparing a Town Meeting article that would center on a fee.
Forcier said it won't pass at Town Meeting.
"I think we really need to find a better solution to this, a more creative solution," he told Duggan. "I think that the bottom line is, it's going to come out of the budget at some point. I don't know if there's a compromise that can be made, but we pretty much put this on, in your hands, Jim, to find a creative solution. I know it's an easy thing to say."
Forcier stressed that it has to be done another way, in the interest of the taxpayer.
"I agree with Jesse, Jim, that I have not spoken to anyone who is happy about their taxes or fees being raised, but I also understand that it's a federal mandate.
Duggan, as he has before, stressed that this is a fee and not a tax. Last month employees with the town-hired engineering and consulting firm CDM Smith also clarified to officials that it is a fee. Joe Ridge, a financial specialist with the firm, said the town will need to generate $1.5 million to comply with current requirements when fully implemented. The firm recommended that Dracut implement a charge based on the impervious area of each parcel in town. Impervious surfaces are non-absorbent, such as rooftops, driveways and sidewalks.
Selectmen Vice Chair Alison Hughes asked Duggan to "do a little more digging" and gather as much information as he can so that she and the other selectmen can try to educate the public as best they can. "Something's going to have to be cut to cover, and I think people need to be very aware of that," Hughes added. "There isn't $1.5 million of excess in our budget, so when people say 'Find it,' it's not that easily found."
Duggan occasionally jotted down notes as the officials spoke and promised to present many options to the board.
In other news:
* Officials held a public hearing for a recreational marijuana dispensary coming to town. GreenStar Herbals, owned by Boxboro resident Tom E. Morey, formally requested a special permit to operate its business at 76 Pleasant St. Morey and his team provided a wealth of information to officials at the meeting, promising to run a professional business with a lot of security measures in place.
* Duggan shared that a senior housing proposal has been selected for the development of up to 60 units on a parcel of land at 144 Greenmont Avenue. He said he would announce which proposal was chosen at the next Board of Selectmen meeting. Five proposals were reviewed by Duggan, Housing Authority Executive Director Mary Karabatsos, and Meredith Boumil-Flynn, who is listed on the town website as the vice chairman of the Capital Planning Committee.
Follow Amaris Castillo on Twitter @AmarisCastillo.