In April when she moved in, her first bill was $15.17. Then it went up to $50 per month. After Tri-Town raised the rate in the summer, it shot up to $150 per month.
“We were blindsided,” said Landerholm. “If we had known, we probably would not have moved in.”
Donovan says the higher charges to SouthField’s pioneer residents are unavoidable.
“The rates should improve as the project gets built out,” he said. “Right now . . . these costs have to be absorbed by a very small population.”
Landerholm said she doesn’t think SouthField residents should pay more than what Weymouth residents pay for the same service.
“They consider us to be our own little island,” she said. “We are Weymouth residents. Our mailing address says Weymouth.”
Christine Young, another SouthField resident, says she also has grown alarmed by the higher bills. Young said when she and her husband moved in, their water/sewer bill for the last two weeks in May was $35. Then it went to $58 in June; $141 in July; and by August it was $146.
Young recently circulated a petition stating her concerns about the “exorbitant rates for what should be a basic, affordable utility” at SouthField. She collected signatures from approximately 90 SouthField residents and sent copies to Tri-Town’s board of directors and Weymouth town officials. She sent them copies of her bills as well.
She faults Corcoran, Tri-Town, and LNR Property Corp., the master developer of the SouthField project, for failing to notify the residents about the situation, which she finds to be “very frustrating.”
“I think it was poor planning on everyone’s part,” said Young. “We’re taking on the brunt of it.”
Mahoney, the development associate for Corcoran, said he hopes Tri-Town can make adjustments to its budget to take some of the burden off SouthField residents.
“The water issue is a big issue out there,” said Mahoney. “I don’t think anybody really anticipated this.
“We’re hoping to be able to work with Tri-Town and residents to find a solution that’s good for everyone,” he said.
Young said she attended a Tri-Town board of directors meeting at SouthField Town Hall in October and saw a PowerPoint presentation that broke down the costs and explained why SouthField’s water and sewer bills were so high.
“They listed Tri-Town’s expenses, salaries. . . They pass that on to us. That has nothing to with the cost of water,” said Young. “That’s not fair.”
She said she believes SouthField residents should get more say in Tri-Town matters.
“We want to be heard,” she said. “We are feeling like we’re outcasts.”
There are five members on Tri-Town’s board of directors who are appointed by their respective towns to five-year terms. Two are from Rockland, two from Weymouth, and one from Abington.
“Why isn’t there a representative from the [SouthField] community on the board?” said Young. “We have one from all the towns, but what about someone actually living here?”
Donovan said there are no plans to add a sixth member. If a SouthField resident were to be appointed, that would need to be authorized by Weymouth’s mayor and the selectmen in Abington and Rockland, since they make the appointments.
There are also no plans to incorporate SouthField as its own municipality. The property that was originally part of Abington, Rockland, and Weymouth until it was acquired by the Navy at the beginning of World War II will most likely revert back to the towns after the redevelopment is complete. Tri-Town will continue to exist until all of its bonds are paid.
Once that happens, Tri-Town will present a dissolution plan to Abington, Rockland, and Weymouth; with their approval, the land will revert to the original boundary lines. “At this point it is too early to predict when this would happen,” said Donovan.
For now, Tri-Town will continue to oversee SouthField’s transformation to a community made up of neighborhoods with names like SouthField Highlands, SouthField Crossing, The Estates, SouthField Village, and SouthField Square.
So far, 226 apartments and 39 homes and townhouses have been completed at SouthField Highlands. The project will continue in phases, and construction is slated to be finished in about 10 years. Eventually people will move into homes in other parts of the old base, and Tri-Town would be responsible for providing water, sewer, schools, and emergency services to those households, as well.