By Jon Bishop
AYER — The Board of Selectmen had a lot to do during its meeting Tuesday.
David Maher, director of community and economic development, and Alicia Hersey, grant writer for the office of community and economic development, were joined by Michael Pingpank of Community Opportunities Group, the firm the town is using to help with the Community Development Block Grant, or CBDG, application.
“This is one of our larger meetings for the CDBG,” Maher said.
Pingpank said that Ayer’s community development strategy was updated this year, and it is something that “really is look at goals for the immediate future.”
“It’s something that gets updated,” he said. “You can update it every year. It’s valid for three years.”
He said that the CDS is “really a backbone for the grant application.”
“You really need to show that the town is behind what you’re looking for and that it’s a worthwhile, well-thought-out project,” he said.
The CDBG, part of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development and administered in Massachusetts by the Department of Housing and Economic Development, allows municipalities to address downtown areas, slums or blights. They can be used for such things as infrastructure projects, social services, and elder support.
Pingpank said that Ayer is eligible for a full grant because the town was not awarded funding in fiscal ’14. The grant, if Ayer receives it, will total $900,000. The CDBG application will include the following: a Pleasant Street infrastructure improvement project, housing rehabilitation, and the undertaking of a community development needs assessment and action plan.
The Pleasant Street project will be between Main Street and the vicinity of the intersection with Groton Street, or the first block of Pleasant Street. It will involve roadway repairs, the installation of new water mains, new drainage, new sewer lines.
Pingpank said that the primary beneficiaries will be those who live on Pleasant Street.
The housing rehabilitation program will address the housing needs of the town’s low to moderate income population, and the community development needs assessment and action plan will help the town obtain an in-depth understanding of residents’ housing, community development, and social services needs.
Pingpank said that the CDBG application is due Feb. 13, and Gov. Charlie Baker will announce his decision in July.
“July 15 or so is usually a rough guess,” he said.
He said that the process is on-schedule.
“The town has been a tremendous asset to help pull everything together,” he said.
Maher said that right now, they need letters of support. He encouraged people who experienced the last CDBG to offer their thoughts.
Mark Wetzel, superintendent of the Department of Public Works, updated the board on the storm water utility implementation and fee development. He said that, back in May of 2011, Ayer Town Meeting approved the stormwater utility enterprise fund.
Charging for stormwater, he said, maintains public infrastructure, is green, and is in accordance with federal and state regulations. He said current storm water work has included cleaning catch basins and pipes, repairing catch basins, replacing drain pipes, and the cleaning of retention basins.
According to Wetzel, stormwater fee requirements must be based on alegally defensible formula; a fee must reflect the amount of demand for service that the rate payer creates; stormwater management demand is based on the amount of stormwater runoff generated by a parcel; and the town can offer fee credits.
His recommendation was to create a fee based on a per-unit method, which he said is the most fair and measurable. Under this framework, all single- and two-family properties would be measured as one equivalent residential unit, or ERU. The fee, then, would be $3 per month per ERU, or $36 per year for single- and two-family homes. There would be a credit policy of up to 50 percent of the fee, and it would bill quarterly with the water and sewer bill.
The implementation process would include a stormwater fee public hearing, which would be followed by a Board of Selectmen vote, Wetzel said.
According to Wetzel, towns that have a stormwater fee include Reading, Newton, and Northampton.
Selectman Gary Luca said that, if Ayer were to implement the fee, then it would have to lower the taxes for people in town.
“I don’t want to charge a tax or a fee or anything else,” he said.
But Selectman Jannice Livingston noted that there has been a long period that has gone by from the approval to the implementation.
Luca, though, said he hopes it goes longer.
Chairman Chris Hillman said that he is certainly open to a public hearing.
“I think we’re committed to funding the infrastructure improvements that you said,” he said. The question, though, is where does the funding come from?
The Board of Selectmen scheduled the stormwater fee hearing for Feb. 24 at 7 p.m.
Earlier in the meeting, Sal Perla, president of Nashoba Valley Medical Center, addressed the proposed New England Recovery Center during public comment. He said it’s important that the new center “is connected to the health care services in the region.”
He said that NVMC is eager to establish a clinical partnership. Nashoba, he said, is the region’s provider, and the hospital wants to stay involved in caring for the people of the region.
Follow Jon on Twitter and Tout: @JonBishopNP