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New sewer line could lead to growth in town

KENT — After a two-hour discussion at a town meeting on Thursday, Jan. 13, Kent residents voted 81 to 17 to appropriate $1,155,000 to construct a new sewer line on Maple Street Extension.

The road, which is both industrially and residentially zoned, could be the future home of factories and affordable housing.

Several speakers at the meeting urged voters to think of the project as an investment in the town of Kent.

First Selectman Bruce Adams stated his support for the project and read a statement from Selectman Karren Garrity stating her support.

The land “holds much promise for the town’s economic growth,” Adams said at the meeting. “This project is a look to the future.”

Adams also read a statement from Selectman George Jacobsen, who opposed the project because he felt that the industrial zone would not bring in enough taxes to make the project worthwhile for the taxpayers who are footing the bill.

John Casey, chairman of the  Sewer Commission, gave a presentation at the meeting that outlined details of the project, including funding and the reasons the project is necessary. He explained that without a sewer line, no industrial projects could be built on Maple Street Extension.

He noted that many of the lots on the land are, according to the Connecticut Department of Environmental Protection, unsuitable for septic systems due to their size and soil conditions.

“We can’t use it for industrial purposes because we don’t have an infrastructure to serve it,” he said.

There is currently a mix of 17 residential and industrially zoned properties, both developed and undeveloped, that could be connected to Kent’s main sewer system.

Funding for the project will be provided by a grant and loan combination from the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA). The grant portion will be $287,500 and the loan portion will be $862,500, to be paid off over a period of 40 years at 3 percent interest.

The debt service (principal and interest) will be $37,051 annually.

Casey explained that in the worst-case scenario, each taxpayer would be responsible for an average of $18.67 per year. The actual amount that taxpayers will pay annually for the project is expected to be much lower, since the Sewer Commission will be using a majority of the income collected from the Maple Street Extension sewer line to repay the debt. One hundred percent of all connection fees and benefit assessment fees will go directly toward the repayment of the debt, as well as 80 percent of all flow charges and basic unit charges.

The USDA grant and loan offer is of a “use it or lose it” nature,Casey said, and he urged voters to take advantage of it.

“These economic terms may not be available again,” he said. “Now is the right time. We have the financing in place.”

The sewer line is expected to draw interest from developers, and residents are hoping that Kent’s economy will be improved as a result. The unemployment rate in the town is currently between 7.1 and 7.2 percent, up from 1 percent in 2000.

Homeowners on Maple Street Extension who have already installed functioning septic systems will not be required to hook up to the town’s sewer system, unless their system is deemed substandard.

Construction on the new sewer line is set to be completed in a year and a half to two years, and easements will be obtained to do the work with as little impact on property owners as possible.

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