Friday, March 21, 2008
Town to vote on septic management loan program
At Town Meeting on May 5, Carlisle will be asked to vote under Article 25 on a Community Septic Management Program proposed by the Board of Health (BOH). The program will enable the town to provide loans to homeowners who need to bring their septic systems into compliance with Title 5 of the state environmental code. Private septic systems must pass Title 5 inspection before a house can be sold or expanded, and failed systems must be updated within two years. In Carlisle, the average cost of replacing a failed septic system was approximately $42,000 in 2007, according to BOH Agent Linda Fantasia. If the town votes to adopt the program, the homeowner loan applications will be handled by the BOH.
Because replacing a failed system presents a hardship to many homeowners, the state initiated the loan program in 1995 when Title 5 underwent major revision. The Community Septic Management Program is funded through the Massachusetts Water Pollution Abatement Trust, and was given $30 million by the 1996 Open Space Bond Bill. According to the BOH, homeowners may already qualify for $6,000 in state tax credit to replace a failed system.
One reason the loan program has been suggested for Carlisle is that it may help the large group of homeowners who moved to town in the seventies and are nearing retirement. “Carlisle grew a lot in the seventies, and it is those systems that are breaking now,” explained Fantasia. She gets calls “on a regular basis” from homeowners with failed systems, and has to refer them to private lending institutions, many of which have income requirements that may be difficult for a retiree on a fixed income to meet.
The loan program is structured with the intent that it will not create an expense for the town. The state will give Carlisle a no-interest loan of up to $200,000, payable over up to 20 years. The funding can be tapped to loan smaller portions to residents for septic system management, with ten-year repayment schedules. Funds may be available from the state as early as July, Fantasia said. The town will begin repaying the state after two years, once homeowner payments have begun.
The BOH has not decided yet how large the individual loans will be, or if the interest paid to the town will be two percent or five percent. The loan would include putting a municipal lien on the homeowner’s house. If someone defaulted on the loan, the town might theoretically take possession of the house, but this has not happened in any of the surrounding towns that already use the program, according to Fantasia.
Selectmen have spoken in favor of the Septic Management Loan Program. Chair Tim Hult told the Mosquito, “At minimal, if any, risk to the town, this is a chance to help individuals with needed septic system repairs in a cost-effective program. This not only may prove to be a valuable resource for qualified residents wishing to sell their homes but it may provide the emphasis for some to initiate long-needed but costly repairs. This is a good deal for Carlisle.”
Fantasia also noted that pumping a septic system every two years lengthens its life significantly. ∆
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