Of Note: The Matter of Contacting Property Owners Before a Vote

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On Thursday, the Old Lyme Water Pollution Control Authority (WPCA) met for the first time since voters approved a plan to borrow up to $9.5 million to install sewers in the shoreline neighborhood of Sound View.

About 40 people attended, many were property owners from the Sound View neighborhood and upset about being saddled with the great bulk of the cost of installing sewers. Two police officers also were on hand, and stood at the back of the room, but the meeting was entirely peaceful. WPCA chair Richard Prendergast was absent, and the Vice Chair Frank presided in his stead.

One complaint — raised earlier with our staff — was that the town did a much better job of sending out bills for taxes than for informing residents about the referendum.

And it’s true, it seems a bit unsporting that the town sends bills to a mailing address, and sends referendum notices to “postal patron” — pretty much assuring that these notices will never reach out-of-town property owners.

CT Examiner’s Cate Hewitt, who attended the meeting, put the question to First Selectwoman Bonnie Reemsnyder, asking her whether it was fair to ask people to pay tens of thousands of dollars without making every effort to reach out to them. Reemsnyder replied that the town simply followed its normal policy, and there was no need to do otherwise, but that everyone should sign up for town alerts.

So we canvased towns in the region to see whether indeed Old Lyme had done differently or worse than any other town in regard to contacting voters before referendums, and the answer appears to be no. Some clearly do worse.

But that doesn’t mean that Sound View property owners don’t have a point. And though it is small consolation, we would strongly encourage the Board of Selectman in the future to use mailing addresses on file to contact voters prior to referendums and town-wide votes.

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