ELIZABETHTOWN - Residents of Elizabethtown will take to the polls July 15 to vote on a revised proposal to establish a public wastewater treatment system in the hamlet.
In a Jan. 25 referendum, residents had voted down a plan to establish a $9.5 million wastewater treatment system for facilities throughout most of the hamlet with a treatment plant located on Woodruff Lane.
Town supervisor Noel Merrihew said a survey of residents following that vote confirmed the location of the treatment facility - on the banks of the Boquet River and near a historic residential area - as the main factor in their decision to oppose the project.
"We're not changing the district boundaries at all from the original plan," said Merrihew. "We are changing the plant site and the engineering proposed for that plan."
The revised proposal would have the sewage pumped to a site on the property of the town-owned Cobble Hill Golf Course where it would be processed through an environmentally-friendly system of sub-surface leaching pads.
Unlike typical treatment plants, the system would require no chemicals to treat the effluent because of the natural filtering action of sand and microbial organisms.
"The beauty of this is that there is no discharge whatsoever into any stream or water body," Merrihew said.
Instead, the treated liquid effluent can be used to irrigate the golf course, and the solid sludge is pumped to reed beds that effectively transform it into topsoil.
"We use gravity as much as we can," said Merrihew, noting how sewage will generally travel downhill to Woodruff Lane where a series of lift stations will pump it to the golf course.
According to Merrihew, the public wastewater system would improve environmental stewardship while providing infrastructure essential for growth and development in Elizabethtown.
"This isn't a frivolous expenditure," he said. "This is an investment in the sustainability of the community, the school, the hospital, and our businesses."
Financing for the sewer system will largely come through grants and low-interest loans from the U.S. Department of Agriculture Rural Development program and the state-run Environmental Facilities Corporation. Combined with a $1 million grant previously received from NYSDEC, about $5.2 million of the more than $9.5 million project is financed.
The town had considered treatment plant siting on the golf course last spring when it applied for a Green Innovation Grant through EFC that would have put the project within the target annual cost of $362 to residential users in the sewer district.
A stipulation in the grant prevented it from being used on a municipally-owned golf course, however, and the plan was abandoned until voters turned down the plant site on Woodruff Lane.
The town board has since passed a resolution stating, regardless of the outcome of the upcoming referendum, the sewer project will only commence if enough funding is obtained to reach the target of $362 annually for residential users.
"If it's $368, we're not going forward," said Merrihew. "We've been very clear about that in all [our meetings]."
Last December, the town was promised a $2.5 million grant for the project through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, but that was committed elsewhere after the first referendum failed to gain approval.
The town can re-apply for ARRA funds, but a significant amount of financing remains to reach the target cost to taxpayers.
Still, Merrihew is confident the town can gain the additional state or federal monies it needs, if only because the project would affect institutions like Elizabethtown Community Hospital, the county offices, and the Horace Nye Home.
Polls will be open Thursday, July 15, from 12 to 8 p.m. at the town hall. Only those residents whose property is within the proposed sewer district are allowed to vote. For more information on voting, contact town clerk Debra Brooks at 873-6555.