07/20/2011

WG1: March 31, 2011 Minutes

Water Infrastructure Finance Commission

Working Group 1: Current Water Infrastructure Needs and Long Term Challenges

Thursday March 31, 2011, 10 am

State House, Room 348

In a meeting duly posted, Working Group One (Current Water Infrastructure Needs and Long Term Challenges) convened at 10am in Room 348 of the State House.

Members attending: Rep. Carolyn Dykema, Chair; Bill Callahan, Robert Zimmerman, David Riedell, Phil Jasset and David Terry.

Also attending: Leah Robins from Rep Dykema’s office, Brendan Jarboe from Sen. Eldridge’s office.

Representative Dykema, Chair opened the meeting at 10am and welcomed members and guests.  The group unanimously voted to accept minutes from 3-3-11 meeting.  The following information was covered during discussion:

Gap Analysis Update

  • There has been progress in bringing Cadmus on board to do a gap analysis.
  • Since EPA has a master contract with Cadmus, we would not need to go through procurement process
  • Cadmus has estimated a cost of $45 – 50,000; there were concerns that someone else should perhaps review the figure, there were concerns about going any higher in funding
  • WG1 will need to review scope of work: likely water and clean water, not stormwater
  • Possible to have something by June, though general agreement that we would want time to review and incorporate into report

Gap Analysis Alternative

  • Bill Callahan, using the assumptions suggested by Lee Murphy’s presentation, was able to calculate cost of water rates as a percentage of household income: .68% currently (document to be posted)
    • Median household income was calculated by county since numbers by town weren’t available on DOR website, compared against current cost by community
    • Does not take into account need or future expectations
    • Assume that cost of infrastructure will increase, chose 2%

Review of Interim Report

Looking at the WG1 draft report submitted in February, the following was discussed:

Replace #1 on page 5 with:

Change the SRF eligibility to reflect local community commitment to funding

  • Concern about losing leveraging reflected in original statement’s endorsement of 0% loans
  • Broad agreement on the principal of focusing the loan on communities that are making a strong commitment, there was some concern that we may need to know the gap 1st to be able to determine how to implement

#2 on page 5 reads: “Review the SRF loan process to simplify application.”

  • Dave consulted with DEP staff and SRF staff, some streamlining may be possible, but likely not a lot since some requirements are set by the Federal Government and state isn’t able to change them
  • Paperwork seems to be a learning curve that could be addressed with education and by bundling projects together through planning best practices rather than applying every year
  • Very real problem for small systems
  • WG2 is focusing on this issue, defer to them at this point and see what they propose
  • Suggestions for simplification included: synchronization of application with town meeting schedule/holding several application dates throughout the year, something to ease duplicate paperwork during construction, District Local Technical Assistance (DLTA) type office at the state level to assist small communities (VT has similar program, concern is that staff time is not available at current budget levels), turbo tax type online application form with FAQ and access to staff member through online chat box
  • Addition to master spreadsheet: look at online possibilities for SRF

#3 on page 5 reads: “Include design/engineering fees in SRF”

  • REMOVED, Likely not a significant problem:
    • when towns DO get SRF monies, there is funding for design
    • many projects won’t advance and design/engineering plans would perhaps be wasted money

#4 on page 5 reads: “Model a water infrastructure investment program after the Community Preservation Act, whereby towns commit a percent of tax revenues matched by a state funding source.”

  • WG4 is addressing, no particularly perfect iteration yet but general sense is:
    • Cities and towns that do the right thing will get to keep a higher percentage of funds from their mill charge that otherwise goes to other cities and towns
  • General agreement that CPA parallel may not be helpful anymore
  • Concern from some members that there it is not clear where new monies are coming from and that funding as currently proposed is just moving money rather than adding to the funds created by municipalities
  • Maybe mill charge funds could funnel into separate account within SRF?
  • Broad agreement on importance of incentives
  • Addition to master spreadsheet: allow for opt in program for communities that make good water choices

Another funding idea:

  • Fees
    • Wouldn’t be a huge source, but could go to local projects only
  • Commonwealth Capital score type program
    • From the program’s website: A community’s Commonwealth Capital score is a measure of the consistency of a municipality’s land use planning and regulatory practices with the Sustainable Development Principles.  The Commonwealth Capital score will account for 30% of the possible points for most* grant and loan programs. Communities are not required to submit a Commonwealth Capital application to be eligible for funding, but their proposals will be significantly less competitive without one.
    • Perhaps have 3 pots of funding from low, middle and high income communities
    • Concern that scores can lead to worthy projects in towns without enough points being passed over to fund less worthy projects in towns with higher point scores

Addition to master spreadsheet: public education/awareness

  • MWWA has PR piece on drinking water
  • When EPA changed water treatment regulations, toured region to explain to executive branches of cities/towns before the water department came to ask for funding—smoothed the process incredibly, but very costly in staff time and energy, especially considering turn over in local government
  • Needs to address various audiences with different communication plans:
    • Children
    • Local leaders – maybe involve MMA, MAPC, land trusts
    • Voc tech schools

Stormwater

H.3270 Eliminating phosphorous bill (Rep Fernandes)

  • Concerns raised that lawn care isn’t a huge contributor and that some forms of phosphorous in fertilizer aren’t a problem since it won’t runoff

Importance of educating a lot of people to do the work of rain gardens, etc so that the cost to the consumer will decrease

Primacy

  • Cadmus report considering primacy to be emailed to WG1 members
  • Rep Dykema urged members to look at the issue separate from funding to see what benefits there may be for the state
  • WG2 is also looking at the report and considering

Watershed approach

  • WG2 and WG3 are also considering
  • Concern that the term needs to be defined since there is a spectrum of how to implement a “watershed approach” Ideas include:
    • similar to an MPO model used in transportation where a regional group prioritizes projects for state funding;
    • Cape Cod model that is private, non-profit (has met with the Speaker regarding the Cape and long term goals)
    • Advisory committee with authority to give up to x number of points towards SRF applications
  • Maybe recommendation can be for EEA to look again at watershed approach
  • Former MA state model featured 15 groups and different funding programs across groups

Regionalization

  • Is anyone examining?  Economics of scale

Public Records Discussion

  • Assume all is public
  • Attorney General’s office hasn’t been definitive with rulings around subcommittees
  • In footnotes of documents include: who drafted, who presented to and when it was presented
  • Send replies directly to sender comments/changes tracked, they can compile all comments and present at the next meeting
  • If in doubt, send to Leah or Brendan who will work with them

Options for the next meeting will be circulated by email, likely to be held within the next 3 weeks, though the chair also requests that members be able to meet on more limited notice if necessary to continue progress on gap analysis.  The meeting will focus on regrouping around the draft report and other areas that may need to be included.

Meeting adjourned at 11:30am.

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