E'town addresses concerns with sewage plan

Overall, Straut said project designers were taking extra steps to ensure the treatment plant would have a negative impact.

"We don't expect it to have any kind of negative effect on property value," he said.

Financing for the sewer system will largely come through grants and low-interest loans from the U.S. Department of Agriculture Rural Development program and the state-run Environmental Facilities Corporation. $4.1 million in grants and a $4.3 million, 38-year, zero-interest loan will keep the annual cost down to $362 for single-family homes served by the new pipeline.

Still, some homeowners seemed skeptical that the wastewater system would be a worthwhile benefit to everyone within the sewer district.

One concern most frequently raised was the contribution by large institutions within the hamlet, such as ECH, Elizabethtown-Lewis Central School, and the County Government Complex. Merrihew explained that the rates would be slightly higher for those entities, accounting for about 30 percent of the total cost.

Others were concerned about how costs incurred by the county and school would lead to higher taxes for people outside the sewer district. Town councilman Phil Hutchins pointed out that both institutions already set aside significant funds just to maintain their current septic systems.

William Finucane, whose business is located on Hand Avenue, questioned how many private septic systems had failed in the hamlet recently, and if it was enough to warrant such a costly project.

Merrihew and others said new, stricter DEC regulations made it unfeasible to install or replace septic systems on several lots within the hamlet, and a sewage system was needed to attract and retain major employers in the hamlet.

A referendum on the proposed sewer system is expected as early as January 2010.

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