Vernon, Bolton to take closer look at water service to proposed development
By Max Bakke
Concerns from residents who fear the inclusion of properties to the Bolton Lakes Regional Water Pollution Control Authority would cause flow capacity problems have prompted Vernon officials to consider limiting the number of parcels added to the massive three-town sewer project.
The limits were recommended after a developer proposing a large complex of shops, offices, and multi-unit housing at the site of the former Bolton cider mill requested water and sewer services to the property.
Both Bolton and Vernon are considering ordinances that would allow the authority to determine which, if any new properties would be added, which will connect the Bolton and Vernon communities to the Manchester sewage treatment plant, Bolton Town Administrator Joyce Stille said.
“Whether or not the cider mill project moves forward, this ordinance takes that power away from the towns and puts it back with the Bolton Lakes Water Pollution Control Authority,” Stille said.
But Vernon Mayor Jason L. McCoy said that while the addition of future properties would have little to no impact on the project’s flow capacity, it’s important that Vernon residents who are part of the sewer expansion be protected.
Property owners seeking to join the sewer system should require a capacity study, consensus of the authority, and the Town Council, he said.
McCoy said the changes arose out of resident concerns at a recent Town Council meeting about the ordinance. The council delayed its action on the ordinance until next month.
“We don’t want to be entirely unfair about withholding our approval,” McCoy said.
The Bolton Board of Selectmen passed its ordinance this month, Stille said.
The sewer system, which will affect about 360 homes in Bolton and 140 homes in Vernon, will feed into the Manchester water treatment plant, eliminating the need for homes around the lake to have individual septic systems, many of which are failing, posing environmental risks to water quality at the lake.
The five-phase, $21.7 million project took a hit this summer after it risked losing a $2.5 million grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s rural water and wastewater program because Vernon’s population exceeds the limit under new policy guidelines. In order to be an eligible community, the town was required to have a population of less than 10,000.
According to the recent census, Vernon’s population is 28,063.
McCoy said the state’s congressional delegation has been helpful in drafting an amendment to the new guidelines that would grant grandfather status to projects initiated before this year, and would protect funding for the project.
McCoy said the protection is good news for Vernon and the other projects that depend on the federal funding.
He added, “Our goal is to put sanitary sewers in that protect our groundwater, our lakes, and our environment.”
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