Buyers and sellers of real estate in the Town of Hopkinton are currently in a holding pattern due to the Board of Health’s inability to access their own records.
The BOH keeps a hard copy of more than 7,000 septic and well records for residential and commercial property in town. These include design plans, perc tests, soil tests, certificates of compliance and more.
The Commonwealth (and most mortgage lenders) requires a septic system inspection when a home with septic is sold. This is commonly known as a Title V inspection, and licensed septic companies must review the engineering plans from the Board of Health to complete the inspection.
For years BOH records were stored at the Center School, but for various reasons the records were moved to a cottage at 147 Hayden Rowe Street last fall. The home was constructed in 1860, and was intended to be a temporary solution as it will eventually be razed to construct the driveway for the new Elmwood school.
But by January, BOH employees that visited the location started to develop rashes and respiratory infections.
“This coincided with the increase in records requests,” said Board of Health Director Shaun McAuliffe. “During the winter things are slower, but when the real estate market started picking up we visited more frequently.”
The toxicity builds up over time, said McAuliffe. “I started limiting my exposure to once per week,” he said. McAuliffe would take Benadryl and don an N95 mask prior to entering, but it was insufficient.
In coordination with Town Manager Norman Khumalo and the Board of Health, McAuliffe condemned the building on April 21, and no one has been allowed in since. “We had to consider the risks to our employees and the potential liability we were exposing the town to,” he said.
The BOH has identified a location at the Fruit Street complex to house the records, and it is now up to the Facilities Department to coordinate the move.
“We are aware of the request, but we have no timeline for the project as of yet,” said Town Facilities Director Dave Daltorio.
Meanwhile, Title V inspections are on hold.
“I am waiting for 6 records requests from the Board of Health,” said Able Septic’s Kristin Schmitt. “Normally this takes a couple of days, but it has been weeks now.”
This doesn’t just affect real estate sales. Schmitt pointed to a customer who has a failing septic system that cannot be repaired because the engineering plans are not available.
Though there is no timeline for the move, McAuliffe has been working with the town IT department to develop a strategy to digitize all BOH records.
Meanwhile, septic companies, realtors and their clients wait.
Um just wear a respirator and bodysuit?
This is absurd that in 2023 they didn’t have a digital backup. Given that fact, who could be so ignorant to decide it was a good idea to store sensitive docs in a building that is about to collapse, catch fire or get flooded? Given the fiasco that has emerged, who would be surprised they can’t figure out a solution. Who is getting fired due to incompetence?
This is unbelievable! THE BOARD OF HEALTH couldn’t figure out after the first person got a respiratory infection and/or a rash that the building was unsafe??? Gives me such great confidence in the leaders of this town! OMG OMG you can’t make this stuff up!
I don’t live in Hopkinton anymore. This is a mess on so many levels – that these records were not digitized, that they were improperly stored, that no one can resolve this issue. So sad.
Why does the town own that property?
Article 43 in the 2015 Annual Town Meeting was “Acquisition of Property at 147 Hayden Rowe Street – Todaro Site – 23.8 acres – $1.5 million”. This house, which was formerly inhabited by Mrs. Colella, was sold to the town as part of the larger 23.8 acres that Mr. Phil Todaro owned. The motion passed by a clear 2/3 majority.
I worked at the Board of Health awhile back. I do remember the director trying to get the records digitized but he couldn’t get the approval for it to be done. I also remember developing an allergy to the paperwork that I had to process for my job. These were all the slips from the septic companies. I would go down in the basement of the town hall where our files were stored (I don’t remember having files at the Center School) and work on filing papers. It got to the point where I would spend about 10 minutes down there and I would start to cough, and my throat would be irritated. It got so bad that I started having trouble even up in the office when dealing with the papers. I had to leave that job because of it. Once they find a new place to put the files, is something going to be done to get the mold and mildew, etc. out of the files before they go into the new storage area?
Town government asleep at the wheel yet again! This is an embarrassment and a repeated example of ineptitude!
So a sale/purchase delayed by this, ridiculous!! Get in and move the records!
There are possible financial damages to those impacted! If you have or will loose money over this, call a good attorney and go after the town officials responsible. They should be individually responsible for damages and not the taxpayers of this town. I’m tired of the incompetence and mismanagement as evidenced again in this case.