Old Lyme looking to schedule Sound View sewer project referendum

Old Lyme — While looking to avoid the possibility of losing funding, and to follow an administrative order from the state Department of Energy and Environmental Protection, town officials are inching ever nearer to installing a shared community sewer system in its Sound View neighborhood.

The move would allow those homes to abandon their cesspools and septic systems.

Besides recently receiving approval from DEEP for its proposed “Coastal Wastewater Management Plan,” which details installing a gravity-fed sewer system within the Sound View neighborhood and a neighborhood north of Route 156 known as "Miscellaneous Town Area B" by connecting to New London’s wastewater treatment facility, town officials also have discussed scheduling an upcoming referendum to approve town bonding to finance the $7.44 million project.

If approved at referendum, the project design then would be slated for late 2019 or potentially 2020, with construction estimated for 2020 through 2023.

With a referendum tentatively scheduled for Aug. 13, both the Board of Selectmen and Board of Finance have discussed signing resolutions authorizing town bonding in their recent meetings. The resolutions are expected to be signed in July, First Selectwoman Bonnie Reemsnyder said Monday in an interview with The Day, and are needed before proceeding with the referendum.

Though the referendum calls for resident approval allowing the town to borrow money through federal-state Clean Water Funds to finance the project through both loans and grants, only residents of impacted neighborhoods — and not all town taxpayers — will be responsible for paying the $7.44 million through a sewer connection fee, Water Pollution Control Authority (WPCA) Chairman Rich Prendergast said by email Thursday.

In an effort to lock down what that fee would look like for those future ratepayers, the WPCA also recently approved a charging formula at its June 11 meeting.

The formula, Prendergast said, will charge each equivalent dwelling unit, or a median-sized home, in Sound View and the Miscellaneous Town Area B an estimated $31,007 to cover the project's capital costs.

Homeowners could pay the estimated $31,007 cost, comprised of a betterment fee and a facility connection fee, in a full one-time payment, or they could finance it over 20 years at a 2 percent loan, which equates to two payments of $944 per year, Prendergast said.

Annually, homeowners also would pay an estimated $430 operations and maintenance fee.

In addition to the capital cost and the annual maintenance fee, homeowners also would be responsible for the plumbing cost to install the line from the house to the curb. According to WPCA presentations detailing the project, each foot of piping could cost between $50 and $100.

After initially working for years to form a plan to install its own independent sewer system to service the town's beach communities in an effort to adhere to the town's "sewer avoidance program," Reemsnyder said the town turned to its current sewer plan with nearby towns — entitled "Coastal Wastewater Management Plan" — once it realized DEEP likely would not approve the independent plan, and further studies proved it would be costly.

As part of its plan, the town also is seeking to combine its sewer project with another separate and ongoing project among the Miami Beach Association, Old Lyme Shores Beach Association and Old Colony Beach Club Association — all of which are chartered beach neighborhoods and considered separate municipalities from the town — by sharing one pump station and one force main. That station would service and pump wastewater from each of the beach neighborhoods to East Lyme, through Waterford and then to New London for treatment.

By sharing one pump station and force main, residents from each neighborhood will save money by splitting the costs needed to build and maintain the pump station, among other fees, Reemsnyder said.

Prendergast said that town ratepayers using the system— which will include those living Sound View and the Miscellaneous Town Area B — would pay an estimated 30 percent of those costs and that they have already been factored into the $7.44 million needed to finance the project.

Should the beach associations build the pump station before the town is ready to move forward, Reemsnyder said the town’s ratepayers then will pay their share when their neighborhoods tie into the station.

The town approved last fall a leasing agreement for the three beach associations to locate the pump station on town property in the Sound View neighborhood area, Reemsnyder said, but the associations are now considering a different location for the pump station on private property on Portland Avenue.

The three beach associations, further along in their sewer projects compared to the town, already have completed studies, drafted intermunicipal agreements with adjacent towns for both sewage capacity and wastewater treatment at the New London plant, and have approved the borrowing of millions of dollars to pay for their projects, according to The Day's previous reporting.

Reemsnyder and Prendergast both said that the WPCA and town officials still are working out details on whether the town will sign separate agreements with East Lyme, Waterford and New London, or if the town could gain sewage capacity through the agreements already drafted by the three beach associations.

The Old Lyme WPCA is planning a public information and question-and-answer session to detail septic system use, the scope of the project area, costs and benefits of the system and a timeline of the project. It will be held from 9:30 to 11 a.m. Saturday at Lyme-Old Lyme Middle School.

m.biekert@theday.com

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