Residents may be asked to address a $154,000 deficit in the water and sewer department budget at the next Town Meeting, due to the failure of developer Campanelli Corporation to pay an outstanding bill for sewer capacity.
The unpaid bill has thrown the water and sewer enterprise account out of balance, and the state has now refused to ratify the town’s tax rate for the coming year.
Selectmen expressed their displeasure at the unforeseen development at Thursday’s joint meeting of the finance committee, water and sewer commission, and the board, saying the current request for a sewer permit for Campanelli’s proposed Chapter 40 B housing project on East Main Street will be denied unless the developer comes up with the money.
“We need to let them know they need to pay their bill,” said vice chairman Bob Kimball.
Town Manager Michael Yunits agreed saying, ”They can’t get a permit if they owe us money.”
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The town billed Campanelli for excess sewer capacity they have never used, under a contract that dates back to a previous developer who owned the land off Route 140 slated for an office park that has yet to be built.
Kimball suggested the request for a sewer permit be tabled until the bill is paid. “Why are we wasting our time?” he asked.
The board voted to call a special town meeting in the event that the bill remains unpaid, and may ask voters to authorize the use of free cash or the reduction of budget surplus to address the shortfall.
Yunits said legislation exists that was established to set fees for entities holding onto sewer capacity, and the Campanelli account is the only one of five not to have paid the bill.
“We will not make a commitment to any new development,” said Kimball. “It will basically stop them in their tracks.”
The board and the water and sewer commission will draft letters to the state housing authority seeking to halt progress on the 40 B project if the bill remains in arrears.