[HISTORY: Adopted by the Annual Town Meeting of the Town of Belchertown 5-13-2013 by Art. 22. Amendments noted where applicable.]
Editor's Note: This article also repealed former Ch. 278, User Charge System, adopted by the Board of Selectmen May 1997.
This user charge system has been designed to produce revenues required for the operation and maintenance of the Town of Belchertown's wastewater treatment plant and sanitary sewers, including capital costs for wastewater treatment plant upgrade and sanitary sewer extensions.
This user charge system is also designed to generate sufficient revenues to cover, at a minimum, replacement stock for sewers; costs relating to the replacement and repair of sewers, including street work and maintenance of all equipment and related appurtenances necessary for provision of wastewater treatment services; all costs of chemicals and other supplies relating to the treatment of wastewater; costs relating to personnel for wastewater collection and treatment systems; and all administrative costs relating to operation of the wastewater collection and treatment system and the collection of fees as provided for by this user charge system.
This user charge system has been developed in accordance with the requirements, providing that each user which discharges pollutants that cause an increase in the cost of managing the effluent or sludge from the treatment works shall pay for such increased cost.
Notification of fees and other charges assessed under this user charge system shall be provided to users in conjunction with a regular bill to be issued quarterly under most circumstances, but in no case less than annually. This notification shall include the rate and that portion of the user charges which is attributable to wastewater treatment services.
The Town shall maintain a financial management system that will accurately account for revenues generated by this user charge system and expenditures for operation and maintenance (including replacement) of the treatment system, based on an adequate budget identifying the basis for determining the annual operation and maintenance costs and the costs of personnel, material, energy and administration. The budget shall be prepared on an annual basis and shall be approved by Town Meeting vote. An independent audit of the financial management system shall be performed on a periodic basis.
This user charge system provides for the recovery of wastewater and sewer-related costs from three sources: user fees, wastewater treatment assessments and general property tax rates. This system has been designed to acknowledge that the improvements to the wastewater treatment works will benefit the community as a whole and will benefit future as well as current users.
User fees. User fees shall be developed based on the annual projected budget for operation and maintenance of the wastewater treatment facilities, including maintenance and repair of the collection system. These costs shall be allocated to all users based on equivalent dwelling units as calculated per 310 CMR 15.203 (Title V design criteria) or based on estimates of the long-term average flow for the facility or other method as deemed appropriate by the Board of Selectmen to capture the costs and expenses of the services provided by the Town through such system. Multiple-family dwelling establishments shall not be calculated below 0.67 EDU per living unit. Where a commercial or industrial user discharges wastes of unusual characteristics, the Board of Selectmen may impose additional fees to cover the costs associated with treatment of such wastes. Billing will be conducted quarterly as described herein:
Any person proposing a new discharge into the sewer system or a substantial change in the volume or character of pollutants is required to complete a connection application. The Board of Selectmen, acting through the Department of Public Works, will review, and if found appropriate, approve, the connection application constituting the issuance of a connection permit. Once a sewer connection permit is issued, it is the permit holder’s responsibility to notify the Department of Public Works at least 24 hours in advance of any work related to the installation of the sanitary sewer service. The Department will schedule the necessary inspections. If the connection is installed properly and ready for use, the Department of Public Works will notify the appropriate Town agencies, and sewer billing will be implemented in the following manner:
For existing, developed property, and modifications to an existing connection which will result in a substantial change in the volume or character of pollutants, sewer billing will begin as of the date the connection is deemed complete.
For new construction requiring a building permit, sewer billing will begin as of the date the building inspector issues a certificate of occupancy. For multiple-unit facilities, sewer billing will begin for the total number of units for which the Building Inspector issued a certificate of occupancy, during the billing period (quarterly).
New accounts, regardless of type, will be established in the following manner:
If the account status is billable prior to the middle of the quarter, sewer billing will include the entire quarterly charges; if the account status is billable on or after the middle of the quarter, billing will begin on the first day of the next quarter.
Account status will remain as billable unless the property is deemed uninhabitable by the Building Inspector or by the issuance of a demolition permit, condemnation order, or any similar order that may be issued by the local, state, or federal agencies with the proper authorization to do so. It is the property owner’s responsibility to notify the Town when their property becomes uninhabitable. Abatements and/or status change, if approved, will be effective as of the date written notification was received by the Town. Properties deemed uninhabitable will be required to obtain a connection permit, in accordance with Chapter 256 of the Code of Belchertown.
Modifications to existing accounts will only be considered upon written request from the property owners or their authorized representative. The Town may, from time to time, audit accounts on file and make changes as required. All modifications will be implemented as of the date written notification was received, in the manner previously described.
Wastewater treatment assessments. The capital costs for wastewater treatment plant improvements shall be recovered in majority through a wastewater treatment assessment applied to all users. Wastewater treatment assessments will apply to all users based on equivalent single-family dwelling units as per 310 CMR 15.203 (Title V design criteria) or based on estimates of the long-term average flow for the facility or other method as deemed appropriate by the Board of Selectmen to capture the costs and expenses of the services provided by the Town through such system. Additionally, a portion of the capital costs for the wastewater treatment system improvements may be funded through the general tax rolls.
For the purposes of calculating the wastewater treatment assessment, the total capital costs for the improvements over the loan period will be divided by the existing equivalent dwelling units. This will determine the wastewater treatment assessment per equivalent single-family dwelling. The wastewater treatment assessment for other types of residential or commercial facilities will be determined by multiplying the single-family equivalency factor times the single-family dwelling wastewater treatment assessment. That portion of the capital costs for the wastewater treatment improvements which is not covered by revenues generated by the wastewater treatment assessment will be adsorbed by the general tax revenues.
General property tax. As discussed above, a portion of the capital costs for wastewater treatment facility improvements may be funded from the general property tax revenues. The amount to be funded from the general property tax rolls may decrease as additional users are brought online. The amount to be funded from the general tax rolls will be determined each year by the Board of Selectmen by subtracting projected revenues from betterment and wastewater treatment assessments from the total capital recovery costs for the year.
Abatements shall be given for errors in billing calculations, provided such errors are brought to the Board's attention within 60 calendar days of the billing date. Abatements may be granted for financial hardship if it is in the opinion of the Board of Selectmen that such abatement is warranted. Abatements will only be granted for sewer costs; assessments and betterments will still apply.
Time limits for applications.
Review and comment by the Board of Selectmen or its designee will begin once the applicant has provided sufficient documentation to support the reasons for the abatement.
When the request is deemed complete, the Board of Selectmen or its designee will stamp the request complete, indicating the date of completion. Completed abatement requests shall be approved or denied by the Board of Selectmen or its designee within 30 days of completion date.
A sewer connection permit may be considered as an inactive account if the owner of record can provide satisfactory documentation, in the form of water or electrical usage, that the premises have not been occupied for a period of 366 consecutive days. Those accounts that are deemed to be inactive shall be placed in an inactive file and not billed for the current fiscal year. The status of inactive accounts shall be checked from time to time and reviewed annually. When an inactive account has been reoccupied and reconnected to the utilities, the permit shall be considered active and billed from the period when utilities were reconnected to the end of the fiscal year, at the prevailing rate.