WINDHAM -– Bringing sewerage to Windham is inevitable, Town Council Chairman Scott Hayman said Wednesday night. The question voters should ask themselves on Nov. 6 is whether this is the right time.

A public forum Wednesday night gave residents a chance to ask questions about the proposed $37.8 million sewer project before voting in less than two weeks.

Several weeks ago, most residents knew nothing about the sewer project, according to some who spoke at a Town Council meeting in September.

Now, signs — supporting and opposing the project — line the streets of Windham.

Proponents say sewerage is needed to protect groundwater, which has rising nitrate levels, and the aquifer below North Windham, a valuable natural resource.

It also would provide an incentive for more businesses to move to the area, proponents say.

Opponents say the payment plan would put too much of a burden on residents, for whatever benefits it would bring.

The project, which would cost an estimated $62 million financed over 30 years with interest, would be built along Route 302, from the rotary at Route 202 almost to the Raymond town line. An offshoot would run along Route 202, from the rotary to the school complex.

In total, 467 properties in that area could be hooked up to the sewerage. All of them, except farms, would have to pay a fee of $12.30 per foot of land along Route 202 or Route 302.

Businesses that could hook up to the sewerage would be required to do so, and would pay $696 a year and up, depending on the amount of wastewater they produce.

The same rate would apply to residents in the area, though they could choose not to connect and instead pay an annual $285 ready-to-use fee.

All property owners in town would see a tax increase of $1 per $1,000 of assessed valuation, meaning the owner of a $250,000 home would pay $250 more in taxes annually.

About 35 people attended Wednesday’s forum, but the questions — fielded by Hayman, Town Manager Tony Plante and Barry Sheff, an engineer from Woodard & Curran — came from only a handful of them, most of whom have vocally opposed the project.

Stan Page, whose wife, Cheryl, wore a bumper sticker across her hat that said “Vote no on sewer,” asked what elderly citizens on fixed incomes would do if they couldn’t afford the taxes and fees.

Plante said they could apply for abatements, as people who can’t afford property taxes do.

Outside of the forum, Cheryl Page said she has been paying attention to the Town Council as it has planned the sewer project over the past few years. “I don’t think we need it right now. We’re not ready for it,” she said.

Kevin Pattershall said he found out about it only a few weeks ago.

The tax increase doesn’t bother him, he said. It’s the fee that he feels is unfair. He came to the forum Wednesday to learn more. “I’m still undecided,” he said.

 

Staff Writer Leslie Bridgers can be contacted at 791-6364 or at:

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