OLD LYME — With high voter turnout at Tuesday’s referendum that included both property owners and residents, the question of whether to bond $9.5 million for sewer construction in Sound View Beach and Miscellaneous Town Area B passed 883 to 565.
The project will be partly reimbursed with a 25 percent Clean Water Funds grant, reducing the costs to approximately $7.44 million.
The vote was the culmination of years of discussion about how to handle an administrative order from the state to mitigate beach area wastewater pollution from flowing into Long Island Sound.
After the vote was counted at the Fire Station on Cross Lane, First Selectwoman Bonnie Reemsnyder said the decision was the result of the Old Lyme Water Pollution Control Authority’s hard work and perseverance.
“A lot of people worked very hard to get to this point, it was really years in the making,” she said. “The WPCA worked very hard for several years making sure that they took their time and were well-prepared for this referendum.”
Reemsnyder said the vote reflected the will of the town. “I think the people spoke.”
She added that sewer construction on all properties owned by the town, such as the police station and a parking lot, would be paid for the town.
“If sewers are used by the town, we pay the same as anyone else — we would pay our share in EDUs,” she said.
In the construction of a gravity sanitary sewer and wastewater pump station, the town plans to share costs and responsibilities with three chartered beach associations — Miami Beach, Old Colony Beach Club and Old Lyme Shores Beach, each with their own Water Pollution Control Authority, that voted independently to pay for their own sewers in 2011-2012. The system will convey wastewater through East Lyme and Waterford to New London’s sewage treatment plant, which outflows into the Thames River.
Scott Boulanger of the Miami Beach Association, who was granted a variance from the Zoning Board of Appeals on his lot at 73 Portland Ave to allow for the construction of a sewage pump house that would service the three beach communities and Sound View, said he was happy to hear the referendum results Tuesday night.
“I’m very excited and look forward to getting the town on board with us now that it’s passed. Hopefully everyone will get on board with it,” he said.
Before the vote, Frank Noe, of Old Colony Beach, who owns Kokomo’s and the Kiddyland arcade building on Hartford Ave., said passing the referendum was an important step in cleaning up the sound. “It’s the right thing to do.”
Sound View property owners be assessed a sewer connection fee of $6,000 and a betterment fee of $15,000 or higher, depending on an Equivalent Dwelling Unit formula based on building square footage. Owners will also pay a $430 user fee annually to cover operational costs, including maintenance and repairs of the pump house equipment.
In a prepared statement Tuesday night after the vote, Frank Pappalardo, chair of the Sound View Commission, said the town’s assertion that Sound View users will pay for the entire project raises numerous questions, including setting a precedent — or not — on potential sewer projects in other areas of town that might be decided on a “case by case basis,”
“Are we to infer that should other areas need sewers in the future the cost will be paid as a town project and not only by users? What makes the Sound View area different from the rest of the town? Why are we set apart from the rest of the town?” he wrote.
Pappalardo said the Sound View area residents and property owners were shouldering the entire town’s burden of the state’s administrative order while paying the doubly-high cost through assessment and tie-in fees combined with increased property taxes.
The schism between Old Lyme’s beach community and the town will need to be overcome, he said.
“There must be a way to find common ground and make this work for all in Old Lyme,” he wrote.
WPCA chairman Richard Prendergast, who conducted several public workshops preceding the referendum, could not be reached for comment.