When it comes to the sewer business, Foxboro is basking in the sweet smell of success.
Or so it seemed last week after selectmen joined members of the board of water and sewer commissioners in voting to sell nearly 35,000 gallons of municipal sewer capacity worth $1.5 million to developers of the Sharon Gallery mixed-use project, located opposite the Shaw’s Plaza in Sharon.
By purchasing a small part of Foxboro’s share in a sewer district collaboration with the towns of Mansfield and Norton, the Sharon developers gained access to the regional treatment plant constructed in 1985 and expanded beginning in 2016.
After the Sharon transaction, Foxboro still retains 370,000 gallons per day in unused sewer capacity, according to public works Director Chris Gallagher.
Urging selectmen to support the proposal, Gallagher explained that Foxboro four years ago paid $5.25 million for its share of the expansion project, money the town is now recovering by selling off excess capacity to interested parties.
“There aren’t many people who want to be in the sewer business,” Gallagher said. “I don’t know why. It’s a good place to be.”
Gallagher said Foxboro has already sold off some 50,000 gallons of its total allotment for $2.1 million. The Sharon Gallery purchase will further reduce the amount Foxboro still owes for the plant expansion to $1.6 million, he said.
Gallagher characterized the strategy as a benefit to both ratepayers and Foxboro residents at large. With less than 1,000 sewer customers in Foxboro, he said it would be implausible to finance its share of the plant expansion by raising rates.
“That is something they could not undertake on the backs of the existing ratepayers,” he said. “Which is the major reason the board supports this application and connection from outside of Foxboro.”
Providing reassurances that Foxboro still retains ample sewer capacity to support local development going forward, Town Manager William Keegan noted that flow already has been allocated to the fire station conversion project, residential developments on Wall Street and the corner of School and South streets, and the Foxboro Housing Authority project at Walnut and Commercial streets.
In addition, Gallagher said, owners of the Chestnut Green project, who constructed their own on-site treatment plant, are seeking to decommission that facility and purchase sewage capacity from the town.
“All of that potential flow is just shy of 80,000 gallons per day,” he said. “We still have 370,000 gallons per day available to us.”
Michael Stanton, who chairs the water and sewer commission, said that Foxboro would be “lucky in our lifetimes” to sell off the remainder of the reserve capacity.
“The bottom line is we’ve got a ready, willing and able purchaser,” Stanton said of the Sharon developers. “I represent the ratepayers and this is a huge win, so I would urge the board to vote in favor.”
In addition to the cost of entry to the plant, ongoing rates reflect operational costs and depreciation, Stanton said.
David Formato, president of Onsite Engineering in Franklin, said that sewage from the Sharon Gallery site will be pumped approximately 1.4 miles to an existing sewer line at the intersection of Reeves Road and Gavin’s Pond Road, in the nearby Cannon Forge/Summerfield development.
Briefing officials on the Sharon Gallery project, Formato said that construction will be sequenced in three phases over a five-year period.
The first involves a 165,000-square-foot “big box” anchor store, along with other retail tenants and 24 one-bedroom residences; the second, 48 two-bedroom condo units and a chain grocery store; and the third, an additional 108 two-bedroom condos along with several more retail stores.
Gallagher told selectmen that the Sharon developers had considered building a private on-site treatment plant, but ultimately believed it more advantageous to buy into the regional sewer district if possible.
Keegan explained that approval was needed from both selectmen and the water and sewer board in order to sell sewage capacity to parties outside of Foxboro.