STONINGTON — Current and former town officials spoke against North Stonington’s request to tie into Stonington’s sewage system at Wednesday’s Board of Selectmen meeting.
Glenn Frishman, a member of the Board of Finance and its former chairman for 18 years, told the selectmen that the proposal represented a significant risk to Stonington taxpayers.
Frishman said he had discussed the project with former North Stonington First Selectman Nicholas Mullane and other town representatives a number of times during his tenure on the finance board. He said that in every instance, the representatives of North Stonington showed complete disregard for the taxpayers of Stonington.
“The sewer system was paid for in great part by the residents and taxpayers of the town who had the foresight to immediately comply with the DEEP mandate and set those plants up, which has enabled us to build our tax base,” Frishman said, referring to the state Department of Energy and Environmental Protection. “If we don’t get from North Stonington the amount of money that it cost our taxpayers to set up and meet all further DEEP mandates over the last 25 years, then we’re really seling ourselves short.”
Frishman said the town should not accept anything less than $3.6 million, which is the approximate amount Stonington taxpayers have paid for the plant over the years.
He also said that the town would lose the opportunity to develop its potential “silver triangle” formed by Route 49, Route 2 and I-95.
Frishman delivered a letter addressed to Richard Cody, chairman of the Water Pollution Control Authority, stating that North Stonington’s option to tie into Stonington’s system expired more than 20 years ago.
North Stonington recently offered $1 million to Stonington and said it wanted to send 100,000 gallons of sewage per day to the treatment plant.
Also speaking against the project was former Selectman Mike Spellman. He said that on top of the financial inequities of the project, Pawcatuck’s future development could be hobbled if the plant’s capacity is taken up by North Stonington. He also said a number of affordable housing projects were clustered along Route 1 in Pawcatuck and would require sewer service. He also urged protection of the ecological integrity of the Mystic and Pawcatuck Rivers.
“In summary, do not rush to seek short-term revenue streams, do ensure we protect Stonington environmentally long term, and ensure our needs before addressing the regions,” Spellman told the board.
Also speaking in opposition to North Stonington’s plan was former First Selectman Don Maranell, who noted that since North Stonington is located atop Stonington’s aquifer, a municipal sewage system would be preferable to septic systems. However, he stated that North Stonington didn’t want to pay its fair share of the Pawcatuck plant’s construction nor for the years of improvements made to the system, which have driven the real costs much higher than previously estimated.
“Even though Glenn is saying we’re tracking about $3.6 million, I think there are other things we have to look at,” he said. “We had to improve that plant to make it do what it does today and North Stonington for 40 years has honored us — they’ve used us as a bank.”
First Selectman Rob Simmons said he would take all comments under advisement.
In other business, the selectmen voted to approve a draft ordinance to ban carry-out plastic bags and plastic straws in the town, with certain exceptions.
An hour before the selectmen’s regular meeting on Wednesday, the Plastic Bags and Straws Ad Hoc Committee and the selectmen held a public hearing about the ordinance.
Resident Sally Cogan, of Stonington, was among the supporters of the ordinance.
“We have seen what plastics can do to the oceans and that’s where my heart lies,” she told the committee and the board. “We need to be more responsible and this is an easy thing to do.”
The ordinance will be brought to a vote at a town meeting.