WILTON — Residents biggest concern about including funding in the town’s next budget to help pay off sewer system loans is how fair it is to those who don’t use the system.

The issue was the topic of a public hearing Tuesday night at the Academy Hill School. The hearing’s purpose was for the Board of Selectmen to gather suggestions from the public on what the amount of funding, if any, should be to help fund loan payments owed for upgrade of the system and waste water treatment plant. That figure then would be presented to the Finance Committee and go before the public again for a final vote in June at Town Meeting.

After the hearing, at their meeting, selectmen voted 3-2 to recommend including $60,000 in the budget to go toward the debt payments.

Most of the approximately 40 residents who turned out to the hearing were strongly against including $170,000 in property tax money for the debt payments, as recommended by Wastewater Superintendent Justin Futia.

Those opposed to the funding argued that it’s not fair that they would pay for a system that they can’t access. With only 944 households and businesses using the sewer system in the town of 4,116 residents, many people in Wilton use and maintain their own septic systems and leach fields.

“I feel the users should pay back the upgrade,” Allen Morrison said. “Those of us who are on septic, if ours break down, the taxpayers don’t pay for it.”

If funding is not included in the 2016-2017 budget for the debt payments, sewer users are looking at steep increases in their rates that could take effect as soon as July, according to Futia.

After discussion, including comments from people who are on the sewer system, many of those opposed to including the $170,000 warmed up to the idea of including some funding.

Futia said the $170,000 he recommended adding for the debt payments is one-third of the total value the sewer system adds to the town.

Those in favor of adding funding in the budget were largely people who were hooked on to the town’s sewer line. They said the sewer system in town supports its economic infrastructure and its ability to attract businesses, as it did with the Comfort Inn on U.S. Route 2.

“(Including the funding) is in a lot more interest for everybody in the town of Wilton, not just for us who are paying the bills,” one sewer user said.

She added that the sewer system allows Wilson Lake to stay clean and free of wastewater.

The $10.8 million upgrade of the town’s sewer system and treatment plant began in 2009. Several years ago, $30,000 was included in the budget for early debt payments on the upgrade. Town Manager Rhonda Irish said that figure was meant to be re-evaluated and voted into the budget year to year, but it has not been because the project slowed down.

With a $30,000 contribution this year, annual sewer rates are projected to rise from $439 per customer to $760, Futia said.

Lauren Abbate — 861-9252

[email protected]

Twitter: @Lauren_M_Abbate

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