Tough Break on Sewer Bill

            The Marion Select Board denied two requests for sewer abatements, one of those cases especially painful given its five-figure, bottom line.

            Frederick Mock will have to pay his $11,133.56 sewer bill, despite not being present when approximately 30,000 gallons of water went through his sprinkler system at 5 Moorings Road while he was away.

            Department of Public Works Director Becky Tilden, who recommended against issuing the abatement based on established billing practices, reported to the Select Board that the owner of the private sewer system had not received an occupancy permit until after the billing period. The meter, said Tilden, was installed on July 6 and despite an initial glitch that was rectified the next day, was operable through the billing period.

            Select Board member Norm Hills compared the 30,000 gallons of water to what would be held by 3½ tanker trucks.

            “I’m surprised it didn’t wash away,” he said, explaining to Chairman Toby Burr that even without an occupancy permit, “they still owned the property. Whether they were there or not, the meter was still running.”

            Burr was admittedly torn on the matter. “We know it didn’t go into the sewer,” he said.

            Tilden said an abatement would only have precedence if the inflated bill was due to a leak outside the dwelling, and that would be a partial sewer abatement only if the property owner showed proof that it was a leak. An example would be irrigation but not a faulty toilet.

            Select Board member Randy Parker conducted several electrical inspections on behalf of Marion’s Building Department. He said it is a brand-new house with nobody in the house.

            “I’d like to do something, but I don’t know how,” he said.

            Town Administrator Geoff Gorman relayed from Marion’s legal counsel that there is support on either side of the argument.

            “I would think that volume or property certainly didn’t go through the sewer,” said Parker, who admittedly gained familiarity with the project while on five or six electrical inspections. “I want to do the right thing. I just want to be fair with everyone. … It’s too bad we don’t have some sort of a mechanism.             There’s not that much we can do about it unfortunately.”

            Hills articulated concern against setting a precedent. He further suggested that the owner should be “really upset” with the people running the sprinkler. “We weren’t in drought,” he noted.

            The vote denying the abatement was unanimous.

            Parker recused himself from the discussion and vote on the $516.12 sewer-abatement request made at 460 Front Street by property owner George Linzee.

            Tilden once again explained her recommendation against approving an abatement. She explained a billing anomaly based on estimated bills from two prior quarters.

            “I believe that the bill was due to the two estimated bills (based on the previous three quarters, one of which under prior ownership), and this one is a catch-up,” said Tilden. “I did say I’d bring it forward. … I don’t recommend (approving an abatement) because we would need a reason. Tilden further explained that consumption was running high on both meters, the one in place and the one that replaced it to test.

            The board held a shorter meeting on November 21.

            Among the board’s actions was the approval of a Water/Sewer commitment for $3,332.27 (final readings November 13.)

            Gorman was excited to promote the Old Rochester Regional Unified Basketball Team’s fundraiser game against Tri-Town Police and Fire personnel, which was to follow the meeting at the high school gym.

            Other events coming up include the Senior Dinner scheduled for Saturday, December 2, at 12:00 pm at the Cushing Community Center. Prior registration was required, as was the case for the Marion Police Brotherhood’s “Pizza with Santa” event on Sunday, December 3, from 11:00 am to 1:00 pm, also at the community center.

            At both events, new, unwrapped toy donations will be accepted for the annual “Fill a Cruiser” drive.

            In other actions made on Tuesday, the Select Board approved the Beverly Yacht Club’s request for a change of officers and postponed the appointment of a police officer at Chief Richard Nighelli’s request. The matter will be taken up at the board’s December 19 meeting.

            The board closed the public session of Tuesday’s meeting and entered executive session to strategize for negotiations nonunion personnel in the Marion Fire Department and the harbormaster and also with respect to litigation with Marion Golf Club.

            The next meeting of the Marion Select Board is scheduled for Tuesday, December 5, at 5:00 pm at the Cushing Community Center, where the Board of Assessors will also appear for the town’s annual tax-classification public hearing. Immediately following the meeting will be the town employees’ holiday party.

Marion Select Board

By Mick Colageo

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