Education, recycling and stormwater management on SCCOG legislative agenda

Norwich — Making education budgeting more predictable, helping municipalities address stormwater requirements, increasing the deposit on bottles and expanding the breadth of the bottle bill are among the top legislative priorities for the Southeastern Connecticut Council of Governments.

The council's legislative agenda focuses on education, solid waste management and recycling, and stormwater management.

The council also is supporting, subject to the chairman's final approval, the proposed Connecticut Jobs and Revenue Act. State Sen. Cathy Osten, D-Sprague, said it would modernize gaming across the board, allow for three entertainment zones and a Bridgeport casino and address the distribution of the Mashantucket Pequot and Mohegan Fund, among other components.

The agenda, which local officials presented to southeastern Connecticut state legislators last Friday, calls for better “predictability and stability" in budgeting for education, including special education costs. It also seeks legislation that “would require some level of reporting by Boards of Education to their respective municipal Boards of Finances."

The council said it also supports raising the bottle deposit from 5 cents to 10 cents, expanding the bottle bill to cover more items, including juice, tea, sports and energy drink bottles, and raising the handling fee at redemption centers. The council also is seeking deposits on wine and liquor bottles.

Franklin First Selectman Charles Grant, the chair of SCCOG's Legislative Committee, said the council is supporting such measures to reduce the amount of material in the recycling stream, at a time when there's less demand worldwide for recycled materials. He said the hope is also that by adding a deposit on items such as "nips," or miniature alcohol bottles, fewer will end up on the roadside.

Local officials said they are looking for solutions about the amount of material that's being picked up in single-stream recycling, which is a system that does not require sorting, at a higher cost than trash but then can't be recycled, whether it's because of contamination or because it's not actually recyclable.

City of Groton Mayor Keith Hedrick pointed out that people may receive conflicting guidance from different sources on what is recyclable, and he is preparing a public service announcement about what can and cannot be recycled.

The council is further advocating for the state to allow crushed glass to be used in road, sidewalk and septic system construction.

"Currently, the only (state Department of Energy and Environmental Protection) approved use of this recycled product is for landfill cover, and since there are few landfills left, the demand for the product is low," the agenda states. "Allowing it to be used for other regulated purposes would reduce its volume in the waste disposal stream thereby reducing costs, and would help create a market for recycled glass."

The council also is asking the state to allow — but not require — municipalities to create municipal stormwater authorities to help address DEEP's stormwater requirements. Currently, only distressed municipalities with less than 28,000 people have the ability to form these authorities.

Officials said this would give all municipalities the option to create the authorities to levy fees on stormwater disposal, based on the amount of impervious surface on a property.

Stonington Borough Warden Jeff Callahan said municipalities need to raise funds to improve their stormwater systems and this would be a good option to do it in an equitable fashion. "We’re under state mandate and federal mandate to manage stormwater and we need the funds to make sure the infrastructure is there," he said.

New London currently has such an authority, which Mayor Michael Passero said also encourages better stormwater practices and better designs, with features such as rain gardens, as developers seek to mitigate costs.

State Rep. Kathleen McCarty, R-Waterford, said she appreciates the work that was done and likes the idea that SCCOG is not asking for mandates but is seeking the option and letting municipalities decide what is in their best interest. 

k.drelich@theday.com

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