The Community Septic Management Loan Program (CSMLP), aimed at upgrading failed residential septic systems to Title 5 standards, was made possible by the enactment of the Open Space Bond Bill of 1996. This law appropriated $30 million to the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection (MASSDEP) to assist qualified homeowners in defraying the cost of complying with Title 5 regulations. In turn, MASSDEP used this appropriation to fund loans through the Massachusetts Water Pollution Abatement Trust (MWPAT).
In past years, the Barnstable County Department of Health and Environment administered this program on behalf of all fifteen Cape towns. After securing town meeting approval for a typical $200,000 appropriation, loans could be distributed to qualified homeowners at a 5% interest rate payable over a maximum 20-year term. As such, more than $8.5 million was borrowed by Cape Cod towns for septic system upgrades through the early part of 2006. This money provided financial assistance for the installation of approximately 1,400 septic systems.
As a way of streamlining the Program and allowing it to continue in a more effective and efficient manner, Barnstable County recently secured special legislation allowing the Program to borrow money from the MWPAT. This takes the burden off towns by eliminating the need for town meeting approval for borrowings. It also eliminates the need to bill and collect regular payments from homeowners in the Program. Of greatest importance with the passage of this legislation is the elimination of funding lapses caused when towns run out of money prior to a town meeting vote. Regular meeting of the Assembly of Delegates allows the Program to appropriate funds as necessary. Health issues relating to a failed septic system are thereby eliminated, as funding remains available to all qualified Cape Cod residents at all times.
The Program began making loans Cape-wide in May of 2006. The interest rate charged to homeowners remains at 5% as does the 20-year repayment term. The Program has also taken over the billing and collection process for new loans with statements mailed to residents in the Program both quarterly and monthly. Septic system repair projects completed for the fiscal year ending June 30, 2010 totaled 381. This translates into $4.43 million in project costs. At the present rate of application approval, it is expected that approximately 400 projects totaling $4.5 million or more will be completed on an annual basis. Program funds from the state remain available into the foreseeable future.
It is important to note that that this program is self supporting. No funds are appropriated from Department revenues to cover any aspect of the Program including the salaries of the administrator, Kendall Ayers, and assistants Angela Do Carmo and Cinthia Wallace, or costs associated with legal expenses such as title searches and recording fees at the Registry of Deeds. The interest rate charged to homeowners covers all related overhead costs.
Ultimately, this program, which has always been beneficial for the region, has now become a much more effective and efficient means of assisting area residents with often cost-prohibitive yet essential septic system requirements.