WINDHAM – Town officials are looking to ask voters in November 2012 whether they will support construction of a $38 million sewerage system. How the project would be funded has yet to be determined.

On Tuesday night, the Town Council approved spending $50,000 for the Woodard & Curran engineering firm to develop a financing plan for the project. Bonds, loans, federal grants and user fees could all play a role in the plan, said Barry Sheff, Woodard & Curran’s senior project manager.

To develop the plan, he said, the firm would help inform residents about the project and seek input from residents and the council to determine what’s affordable.

After developing a $68 million master plan for sewerage in Windham last year, Woodard & Curran came back to the council this spring with a scaled-down, $38 million version that would serve the Route 302 corridor and the school campus at Windham Center.

The system would connect to a pumping station at the corner of Route 302 and East Bridge Street in Westbrook.

The need for sewerage in North Windham has become more pressing in recent years, when tests indicated that development in the area is contaminating an aquifer below.

Homes and businesses in the study area discharge an average of 740,000 gallons of wastewater into the aquifer on a daily basis.

Although the aquifer is not used for public water, it could be in the future, said Town Manager Tony Plante.

“The problem will spread and it will grow if we don’t do something about it,” he said.

Plante said that in a best-case scenario, the system would be operating six years from now.

Rather than continue working on its design, Woodard & Curran decided it would be best to come up with the financing plan and see if the public would support it.

Plante said next fall would be an optimal time for a referendum because of the expected high voter turnout for the 2012 presidential election.

“The community needs to weigh in on it,” Plante said. “This is a huge commitment.”

Staff Writer Leslie Bridgers can be contacted at 791-6364 or at: [email protected]

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