Sep 052012

I am just returned from the Selectmens” meeting (September 4) on the Lost Lake Sewer project.

Going into the meeting, I was of the opinion that the town as a whole ought not to fund any more than a token portion of the project costs.

Indeed, questioning of the representative of the engineering firm did not result in any information which would cause one to think that the quality of the town”s water drawn from the Whitney well would suffer. After all, the quality of the lake water has been going down since the 70″s but despite the high permeability of the soils underneath the lake, the quality of the water drawn from the town well has not suffered at all. If lake water was going to degrade the quality of the Whitney well, it would have happened by now.

That said, Lost Lake is obviously a part of the town and we should all feel a sense of community to help share our common burdens. Henceforth, if we were to say that every localized problem is a problem which should be mitigated (paid for) solely by the affected residents, we would inevitably lose the sense of community which makes Groton such an appealing place to live in the first place.

The rub is in finding a number which fairly represents what people on the other side of town should pay to help their neighbors. I think that, given the fact that a town contribution in excess of 25% would/could cause a situation where the town needs to pass a debt exclusion or even a 2½ override, it is appropriate for the town as a whole to fund 25% of the cost of the project.

Commercial businesses at Four Corners would pay roughly a 25% share and the residents of Lost Lake whose septic systems are the source of the problem would pay the other 50%.

What is troubling to me, and what is greatly troubling to the residents who already paid tens of thousands of dollars to bring their individual properties into compliance, is that there is no mechanism to reduce what they will pay to bring the sewer system to their homes. True enough, there is no need for them to hook into the new system, but they will have to pay the betterment regardless, to the tune of perhaps $22,000.

I am further troubled to the extent that it was the town, via the Board of Health, which required these property owners to invest heavily in systems for which there will be no need if the project passes at Town Meeting. I do not feel as much empathy for the property owners whose systems are not in compliance because it is those systems which are affecting the quality of the lake. While it is true that some of the owners of non-compliant systems do not have income levels which can easily absorb the betterment charges, I am hopeful, based on some discussion at the meeting, that some help can be found on some sort of sliding scale to help those who have more modest incomes.

Perhaps there is no answer which will please everyone but on the whole, in my view, a 25% share by the town is an appropriate figure which fairly represents the town”s interest in the lake and the quality of life of the people who live there.

Alan Hoch