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Not often do voters get the chance to solve two problems by approving a single purchase, but such is the opportunity in East Lyme where passage of a bond referendum will both set aside vital open space and help meet the town's water needs.
The selectmen are asking town voters to authorize a $4.23 million bond issue to purchase 301 acres around Darrow Pond, located just west of Chesterfield Road, about two miles north of Route 1. The beautiful, wooded property with varying topography is ideal for hiking and bike paths. It is important for the town to maintain such natural settings, even as it pursues commercial growth in appropriate locations.
Plans call for using roughly 50 acres of the property for construction of a water tower vital to the town's long-term, water-supply strategy. An adequate supply is necessary for economic growth.
In July and August East Lyme often has to curb the use of its public well system. During those months conditions often become so dry that fully drawing on some wells can adversely affect water flows in the area, according to state environmental regulators. Yet summer is when water demand peaks as seasonal visitors double the year-round population of 16,000.
Voters have already approved plans to connect the East Lyme well system to the Lake Konomoc reservoir serving New London. In summer, East Lyme will draw on the Konomoc water, while the rest of the year sending some of its ample well water supply to the reservoir. The water tank planned for the Darrow Pond property is critical to providing the necessary water pressure for the system.
Some residents have questioned the price, but given his track record of fiscal frugality, we are confident First Selectman Paul Formica would not have moved things along unless confident the town got a fair deal.
East Lyme residents should vote "yes" in Thursday's referendum. Polls will be open from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m.