Public hearing on sewer plant upgrade attracts few

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WILTON — Although sewage rates may be on the rise for the first time in more than 20 years, the number of customers who attended Tuesday’s second public hearing on the proposed sewage treatment plant renovation project could be counted on one hand.

A previous session held in April brought more than a dozen of the 995 sewer users, leading town officials to post fliers and posters around town advertising this second opportunity to hear the proposed plan.

Although the plant has won just about every award the state Department of Environmental Protection and the federal Environmental Protection Agency offers, thanks to Superintendent Russ Mathers and his crew, after 32 years it needs work, said Bill Olver of Olver Associates of Winterport. After evaluating the town’s plant and 31 pump stations, the environmental engineers are recommending a renovation of the system, a $9.5 million project. The good part is that the town has elected to look for a solution before a breakdown or something happens, Olver said.

This is also the last year of licensing by DEP. Having a plan in place will go far toward renewal, Mathers said.

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The town is exploring getting a U.S. Department of Agriculture Rural Development grant or loan to pay for the project, but dividing the town’s expense among customers will bring a $270 yearly sewer rate for a family of four to more than $500.

The project needs to be approved by taxpayers during a town meeting.

Following a second public hearing Tuesday, selectmen voted unanimously to apply for a Community Development Block Grant for $10,000 to create a plan for economic development, housing and tourism in the downtown area.

A University of Maine at Farmington political science major, sophomore David Fisk, has been putting the application together for the town, Town Manager Rhonda Irish said. It is only a planning grant that requires a 25 percent funding match, but the town’s tax increment financing funds could be used, she said.

In other business, Selectman Paul Gooch reported on the work of the Street Light Committee. After posting 205 signs on potential streets lights that the committee has considered shutting off and receiving responses from the public, the committee has agreed to remove signs and not darken about 20 poles in some smaller neighborhoods.

Their original goal was to turn off about half of the town’s 314 lights, reducing last year’s street light budget of $51,197 to about half that amount. They are above that amount and are considering turning off about 185 lights, he said.

The board decided to delay granting permission for Elvis Phair and Therese Pinette to seasonally operate a portable hot dog stand at the foot of Wilson Lake. The board had questions about their plans and decided to wait for more information.

abryant@sunjournal.com

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