High Fee for Septic Inspection Leads to Changes in Sandown

SANDOWN – After red flags went up on a high priced septic inspection, the selectmen asked septic inspector Ed Mencis to meet with them. Earlier this year Mencis, who has been serving in the role for just a few months, performed an inspection for a 14-home cluster development on Tote Road in the Stoneford development, where all homes use the same two community septic systems. The bill from that inspection process came to $1,165.

The septic system permit fee structure indicates inspection cost per unit, and Mencis said there is confusion over what a unit is. In the Stoneford instance, Mencis took a unit to mean a housing unit, but others argued at the Monday, June 17 selectmen meeting that a unit refers to the septic system the inspection is being done on.

The septic inspector charged the plan review and bed bottom inspection fee 14 times. The bed bottom inspection fee is $55 and the plan review fee, at the time, was $25. Fees have increased since the review was done in April, with the plan review cost to $40. Mencis said during the Monday meeting that he was amenable to any solution the selectmen came to, and would leave the matter up to them. He added that the town was compensated well on the recent job.

“The town got a considerable amount of money, as did the inspector, but in all fairness it was probably on the high side and I didn’t realize it,” said Mencis, noting that the selectmen now had to decide how to move forward. “What should we do?”

Selectman Brenda Copp asked if the work that went into the inspection for the system in question was more than in an average single family home inspection. Mencis said it was a larger system than others he’s seen and because of that, it took longer. Chair Tom Tombarello asked how other towns were doing it and if the recent fee was in line with them.

“Some are high, some are low. This is probably on the high side. Was it a reasonable fee? The town also gets a portion of it,” said Mencis. Building inspector Bob Bogosh said it was on the high side. “To me a unit is the septic system, regardless of the size,” said Bogosh. He added that though size can affect inspection time, it was all a part of the inspection process covered by the fee.

Selectman Hans Nicolaisen said inspection costs ultimately get passed to the homeowner. He said he had spoken with Mencis, Bogosh and builders about the issue, and suggested the town keep it simple by specifying that the inspection fee was as stated for any septic with one to four housing units attached, and doubled for anything five units and up.

“That keeps it cut and dry and black and white,” said Nicolaisen. According to town administrator Lynne Blaisdell, this was the method that former septic inspector Ken Sherwood used for the same development in the past. Sherwood served as septic inspector for years before he resigned last year. The selectmen unanimously decided to go with Nicolaisen’s suggestion. Money will be refunded to the Stoneford Homeowners’ Association and Mencis cut another check for the amended amount. It was agreed that there were few such systems in town and the matter was a rare occurrence.

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