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Baby Steps Toward Regional Sewer Facility

Selectmen endorse amendment to 2010 legislation allowing for towns to set own fees.

State Representative Jay Barrows told Norton selectmen Thursday the five-year- old effort to expand the Norton based, Mansfield-operated sewer treatment facility on Hill Street is inching towards completion.

 He requested the board sign a statement endorsing an amendment to the legislation passed in 2010, a ruling that formally established a wastewater district including the towns of Mansfield, Norton and Foxborough. The amendment allows each member community to set its own fees for new commercial and residential users of sanitary sewer, rather than establishing one set fee for everyone.

 The three communities have been meeting over the past two years to pound out the parameters of the agreement. “We’re getting close,” Barrows said.

Under the current understanding, Mansfield will be treating 450,000 additional gallons of wastewater a day, and Foxborough and Norton will be asking for 250,000 gallons a day.

 Negotiations for the purchase of land off Pine Street owned by the Reilly family are also proceeding, Barrow told the board. The land is one of two parcels necessary for the discharge of treated wastewater once the plant is expanded. The state has ruled that the plant cannot discharge any more treated effluent into the Three Mile river basin, so expansion depends on the creation of a network of storage pools that will allow the water to seep slowly into the ground. One parcel of land owned by the Kok family has already been secured, but the Reilly property has been more problematic.

 Barrows said the expansion and increased customers from all three towns will call for “significant expansion if infrastructure” in Norton and Foxborough.

 He noted the issues tackled at the inter-municipal agreement meetings have created some dissention. “It’s been a long process – there are some big users,” he said. “It’s a big challenge to learn to think regionally.”

 But he added no one community can afford the cost of expansion, and predicted the final product will benefit everyone. “It’s good for all of us,” he said. “We’re going to be a desirable place. The economy won’t be dormant forever — we need to be ready.”

 Norton’s veteran state representative Betty Poirier was also in attendance at the meeting, and gave credit to Barrows for his dogged perseverance over the years to create the regional district.

 “Everything we’ve done will help Norton increase its tax base, and make the town attractive to business,” she said. Poirier was instrumental in securing the agreements with the state to allow construction of the off ramp from Route 140 to I-495 south near the Comcast Center, a move that the town hopes will encourage commercial users who could establish business bases on the commercial/industrial land in front of the TPC golf course.

 Poirier was also there to say her official good-byes as the town’s long time state representative. Because of redistricting due to population changes, Norton will no longer be part of her district. Representative Steven Howitt, who was in the audience, will take over for Poirier as representative of the Fourth Bristol District that includes Norton, Rehoboth, Seekonk and Swansea.

 “I will be very sad to leave you,” she said, but added that she is not going anywhere, and will continue to keep tabs on the town.

“I’m leaving you in good hands,” Poirier said. “Whether Norton is in my district or not, I will always be watching out for you.”

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