OLD LYME — On Tuesday night, Sound View Beach residents spoke out against shouldering the entire $7.44 million cost of installing sewer infrastructure in their beach community. A small number of residents also said they would consult with an attorney concerning the bond question that is expected to go to a town-wide referendum on August 13.
At least 80 people attended the second of two informational sessions organized by the town’s Water Pollution Control Authority (WPCA) at the Lyme-Old Lyme Middle School.
On July 15, the Town of Old Lyme signed a nonbinding memorandum of understanding with the three private beach associations — Miami Beach, Old Colony Beach and Old Lyme Shores — that would include the town’s Sound View community in a cost-sharing agreement to fund the installation of a pump house and force main, as well as intermunicipal agreements with East Lyme and New London on capacity.
The session began at 7:30 with a presentation, that was followed by an opportunity to ask questions of WPCA chair Richard Prendergast. After attending an overlapping town meeting, CT Examiner staff arrived at 8:15 when the WPCA discussion was already underway. Staff also attended the prior June 29 session.
If the referendum passes, Sound View residents will be apportioned a percent of the total cost of the sewer installation and maintenance determined by an Equivalent Dwelling Unit (EDU) formula based on livable square-footage. One EDU equal to 1,242 square feet. The minimum cost would include a $6,000 hook-up fee and a $15,000 betterment fee for houses up to one EDU. The cost would increase for larger dwellings exceeding one EDU of livable square footage. CT Examiner has not yet been able to clarify the formula for determining the cost for commercial dwellings. The costs can be funded over 20 years at 2 percent interest.
Prendergast said that the WPCA arrived at the current formula after three years of debate.
A number of Sound View residents objected to the formula, including one resident who said he owned two houses that when combined total less than 800 square feet. According to the formula, he will be charged separately for each house.
Several beach residents also argued that the $7.44 million cost should be shared by the town as a whole. Prendergast said the plan was chosen because “we think it’s the most acceptable to the town as a whole.”
“You have good points, but what can I say? If you guys have a better idea and you think it will work then I encourage you to vote your conscience… but understand the consequences and what could happen,” Prendergast said in reply.
Prendergast told attendees that if the referendum fails, and the project is delayed, the price of the construction will increase. A further delay could also cost the town its Clean Water Funds, which will pay for 25 percent of the project cost.
Dennis Melluzzo, a Sound View resident who said he was on the school building committee for 10 years, compared the cost of sewers to the cost of local schools, that is required of all residents regardless of whether they have children attending schools.
“It is not right, it is not fair… the better option is for the town to pay $7 million and for everybody to feel the pain over 3,000 households,” he said. “We’re a family down here. We’re all in the same boat, whether you live in Rogers Lake or Browns Lane or Portland Avenue, and we all suffer the pain.”
Another resident who said she was a teacher, commented that although it appeared the WPCA had made an attempt to make the process fair, “it doesn’t seem fair at all.”
“I believe in my heart that this is an Old Lyme problem and not a Sound View problem and that’s the main problem that we’re having tonight. We need to go back and figure out how we can come together as a community and how can we share this responsibility among all of our citizens in Old Lyme,” she said. “We should talk about how we can talk to all residents of Old Lyme and become a part of this together and not just put it on the people of Sound View.”
Frank Pappalardo, chair of the Sound View Commission, warned that the referendum would split the community.
“We’ve spent years trying to make this a total community and we’ve had a number of successes in that respect but what this referendum is going to do is polarize the town once again — the beach people against the town people and I think it’s wrong,” he said.
After the meeting, a group of Sound View residents convened in the hallway outside of the auditorium to discuss hiring an attorney.
“We’re a small group of taxpayers in a longstanding community that is being made responsible for paying 100 percent of the cost of an infrastructure project, a public works project,” said Robert Tonon, who gathered with John Grande and Vinny Perezi.
Pappalardo, who joined the group, said the question was whether the town can make residents pay for public works projects.
“I use the example of the boathouse, which we paid a $1 million for 50 people to use, or the restrooms at Rogers Lake, which was $182,000 for just the Rogers Lake area,” he said. “These are all public works projects and they’re not privately owned like the rest of the beaches … Miami beach is a private beach and they have the rights and privileges of a private beach, they get assessed, they can gate their streets. We have open streets, we are part of the town of Old Lyme.”