ELIZABETHTOWN - A public referendum on the formation of a sewer district in Elizabethtown is scheduled for Jan. 25, and there is still significant division on a proposal several years in the making.
The project, which is expected to total over $9.5 million, involves a gravity-based sewer system that would service the most dense areas of the hamlet and feed into a wastewater treatment plant along the Boquet River on Woodruff Lane.
Many residents, including several members of the town's planning board, have opposed the project, wary of a noisy, malodorous, or ugly sewage plant that could ruin property values or interfere with their well-being.
"We are not opposed to wastewater treatment in Elizabethtown," wrote planning board members in a letter to the editor. "We are opposed to locating a sewer plant in the middle of a residential area that is adjacent to an historic district. We appreciate the time and effort that the Town Board has put into this project."
Town supervisor Noel Merrihew said the Woodruff Lane site was the best option available after considering at least six sites in and around the hamlet. He noted that the property has always been zoned for industrial purposes.
While the town board unanimously supports the project, said Merrihew, it is ultimately in the hands of voters.
"As a town board, it's our job to recognize a need and collectively present a capital project for consideration," he said. "We're not forcing this on anybody; we're giving them an option to decide on."
Financing for the sewer system will largely come through grants and low-interest loans from the U.S. Department of Agriculture Rural Development program, combined with a $1 million grant previously received from NYSDEC.
In December, USDA announced an additional 2.5 million in American Recovery and Reinvestment Act funds for the project, bringing the total grant money for the project up to about $7.7 million, roughly 80 percent of the total cost.