Old Lyme candidates debate wastewater project, Sound View
Old Lyme — First Selectwoman Bonnie Reemsnyder, a Democrat, and Republican challenger Cathy Carter debated a wastewater management study, the Sound View improvement project and leadership styles on Thursday.
The debate, held at Town Hall and sponsored by The Day and the Lyme-Old Lyme Chamber of Commerce, also featured incumbent selectmen Arthur E. “Skip” Sibley Jr., a Republican, and Mary Jo Nosal, a Democrat.
The Day's Editorial Page Director Paul Choiniere and Olwen Logan, the editor of LymeLine.com, moderated.
Candidates expressed disagreement on many town issues during the debate, which at times proved contentious.
One topic of disagreement was a wastewater management study that the town is conducting for its shoreline neighborhoods.
Reemsnyder said with three private beach associations in town already planning sewers, it had become apparent the state Department of Energy and Environmental Protection was going to force the town to connect additional shoreline neighborhoods to sewers.
"I think a responsible leader would look at the issue, rather than sticking their head in the sand and ignoring it," she said.
But Carter said she is concerned that a sewer project would carry a $50 million price tag. She also said the town has to do more to defend Hawk's Nest against sewers, a neighborhood which she said has collected data that found it is not polluting.
"We invited DEEP into our community," she said. In her experience, she said, this is never a good idea, because the town is now being "steamrolled" by the state into a large capital project.
Reemsnyder countered that if the potential sewer project moves forward, about $30 million would be bonded by the three private beach associations. She read aloud correspondence from DEEP that said the state agency reviewed Hawk's Nest's data and found that it is polluting.
Also during the debate, Carter said Sound View is a vital part of the community, but added that the town "put the cart before the horse" on the improvement project. She said the town could end up with new sidewalks on Hartford Avenue but buildings falling down onto them. She supported a blight ordinance.
But Reemsnyder said that new property owners are pursuing plans for buildings on Hartford Avenue. She also said the town owes it to the Sound View community to clean up the area, and the state transportation grant will do that.
The candidates also disagreed about police grievances filed against the town this summer.
Nosal said three police officers filed grievances that the Board of Selectmen addressed respectfully, but found no merit. She said the grievances related to the "chain of the command" in the resident trooper town, which hadn't been enforced in the past.
But Sibley called the 15 grievances filed this summer a "huge red flag." He said his calls for meetings at the beginning of the issue went largely ignored.
Reemsnyder countered that calling it a "red flag" was unfair. She said that the police have a right to file grievances, but that every police department has a chain of command.
In response to a question about the town's political climate, Nosal said negative political campaigning and divisiveness don't belong in Old Lyme. Sibley said the past two years on the board have been difficult as a member of the minority party.
The first selectwoman candidate who loses the race then becomes a candidate for the Board of Selectmen. The top two vote-getters, with one from the minority party, will then serve alongside the first selectwoman on the Board of Selectmen.
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