Published April 08. 2014 12:00PM Updated April 09. 2014 12:42AM
Montville — Opponents of the town’s plan to build a wastewater pretreatment system at Rand-Whitney Containerboard using a $5 million Department of Energy and Environmental Protection grant did not file a petition against the project by the deadline, although they had spent the past several days collecting signatures for one.
Republican Town Councilor Tom McNally said he and other opponents had misunderstood the petition timeline. They thought they had until Wednesday at 4:30 p.m. to submit signatures, but the deadline was Monday at 4:30 p.m.
By Monday at noon, when they realized the error, they were still approximately 100 signatures short, McNally said.
“Your signatures were not wasted,” Independence for Montville Chairman Jim Andriote, Sr. said in a statement. “This should tell the Democratic Council and Mayor that a large group of taxpayers are not in favor of this conjured up deal between (Rand-Whitney) and the Town.”
McNally said he plans to take advantage of any future opportunities to fight the plan to build the wastewater pretreatment system as the council and Water Pollution Control Authority move forward with the plan.
Democrats say the plan to build the technology on Rand-Whitney’s property will save the town money by eliminating the need for a $27 million upgrade at the WPCA facility. The advanced pretreatment system would be owned by Montville but operated by a third-party engineering contractor, creating a “legal barrier” between Rand-Whitney and the town, said Town Attorney Matthew Auger.
Many Montville residents still deeply distrust Rand-Whitney as a result of a lengthy legal battle between the company and town that ended with Montville paying an $11.7 million settlement.
“Over 20 years ago the Town made an agreement with (Rand-Whitney) and it cost them over 16 million dollars with Lawyers’ Fees,” Andriote said in the statement. “Now we are to believe that (Rand-Whitney) is going to be our friend and work out a deal that will benefit the Town more than them.”
He questioned why Mayor Ron McDaniel, Council Chairman Joe Jackiewicz and Councilor Tim May support it.
McDaniel said he understood the concern about working with Rand-Whitney but emphasized that the town is acting on the advice of its attorneys this time — as opposed to ignoring the advice as they did during the Rand-Whitney lawsuit.
“I have a bad feeling about (Rand-Whitney) every time I pay my taxes,” admitted McDaniel. But opponents “are using Rand-Whitney to scare this project into oblivion.”