Old Lyme residents narrowly approve joining Ledge Light Health District

Old Lyme — In an extremely close vote, 82-79, townspeople decided Tuesday that the town will become a member of Ledge Light Health District, a regional health district currently serving East Lyme, Groton, Ledyard, New London and Waterford.

At the special town meeting Tuesday in the Lyme-Old Lyme Middle School auditorium, voters also approved $911,100 for construction on the Sound View improvements project, with 102 people voting in favor, 74 opposing, and one abstention.

The amount represents an increase over the $877,000 initially approved for construction by residents this summer, after the bids for the project came in higher than expected

The total cost to the town is expected to be $182,220, after 80 percent reimbursement, according to the presentation. Construction is slated to begin on Oct. 10.

The votes for both items were conducted by paper ballots, at the request of residents.

Before the vote on Ledge Light Health District, residents asked questions and several voiced concerns over a loss of local control by moving to Ledge Light.

Todd Machnik said that the representation on Ledge Light's board of directors is related to the populations of its member towns and cities and that the needs of the larger cities are different than the needs of a small town.

Machnik said "we're going to get the health district someone thinks we need rather than the one we have now," where people can approach the Board of Selectmen and shape the local health department.

Town officials pointed to cost savings, services and turnover within the town's sanitarian position, and better oversight as reasons to join Ledge Light.

Joining Ledge Light is a two-year commitment.

Old Lyme's fiscal year 2017 budget allocates about $202,787 for Old Lyme's own health department, according to a presentation by First Selectwoman Bonnie Reemsnyder.

In comparison, Old Lyme would spend $145,222 annually for the first two years, by joining Ledge Light.

Specifically, Old Lyme will pay Ledge Light $115,222 annually for its first two years. Old Lyme also will budget $30,000 to cover items, such as stormwater management and goose control at town parks, that are not covered by Ledge Light.

The $115,222 fee that Ledge Light charges includes a population-based fee and an additional $60,000 fee for the health district to cover additional costs for the town.

In the third year, Old Lyme will review the additional fee to see if it could be reduced, and the additional fee would disappear for the fourth year, Reemsnyder said.

Ledge Light will hire the administrative assistant for Old Lyme's health department, who will spend at least half of her time in Old Lyme, according to the presentation.

Residents also approved by voice vote two easements at Hains Park for several properties near Rogers Lake.

k.drelich@theday.com

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