WILTON — The Board of Selectpersons want to hear from taxpayers following a recommendation that the town provide $170,368 from taxes to help cover costs of a $10.8 million treatment plant renovation.

On Tuesday, the board set a public hearing for 6:30 p.m. on March 1, location to be announced. The hearing would be held before the town sets the next sewer rate increase.

The amount recommended by Sewer Department Superintendent Justin Futia, $170,368, would most likely be annually for the life of the loan – 29 years, according to Town Manager Rhonda Irish.

This is not the first time the town has picked up a portion of debt on the plant, Irish said. For about 20 years, the town contributed $20,000 to the original debt.

Over the past few years, taxpayers have voted to spend $30,000 to help repay the renovation’s Phase 1 loans, but some selectpersons question doing so. Some townspeople have said it is unfair to expect those who are not on the sewer system — about half the town — to help pay the bill.

With $3.3 million in federal grants, all taxpayers are already paying, Selectperson Jeff Adams said. There are no grants available to residents who are not on the system to help them put in septic systems, he said.

Futia told the board that a month ago, he would have agreed with these concerns, but he has since come to see how the Sewer Department benefits the whole town — from maintaining sewer lines and the quality of the lake and area homes to supporting business growth on Route 2, he said. 

Selectperson Scott Taylor has asked for people’s thoughts since the board started these discussions. Some residents have told him that they have their own septic systems and taxpayers should not be burdened with the costs, he said.

There are 944 ratepayers in the system, Irish previously said. In 2012, a minimal user’s bill went from $64 to about $104 per quarter. It was the first rate increase since 1987.

Taxpayers voted to pay $30,000 to help keep the rate down which means currently, minimal customers pay $439.78 annually to cover Phase I loan debt, operations and maintenance.

If the town contributes only $30,000 this year, that annual amount for ratepayers would jump to $737.43 to cover debt on three loans, maintenance and operations.

For many older residents on fixed incomes like some family members who are sewer customers, that increase is not something they can afford, Selectperson Jeffrey Rowe said.

Selectperson John Black suggested that the board needed to find a way to get more people involved in the discussions.

The money has been spent, Futia said after the meeting. If the department cannot pay back the loans, taxpayers will have to pay. The one-year investment will help the department get to a point where it can operate and maintain based on ratepayers, he said.

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This story was changed in terms of the length of  time that the $170,000 is needed.

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