KITTERY, Maine (NEWS CENTER) — In 2013, residents of Kittery approved a bond to update the sewer system in part of the town. It was a more than $7.5-million dollar project, but residents say how that would be funded wasn’t exactly clear.
Now, some of them are facing bills upwards of $20-thousand to cover the cost.
158 households are splitting 50% of that $7.65-million dollar bond. Depending on how much land they own, the individual bills range from $13-thousand to nearly $300-thousand; and those homeowners say there was never an indication their bills would be that high.
The project is just about finished along Martin Road, but these families only found out about their cost in January.
The superintendent of the town’s Sewer Department says townspeople had plenty of opportunities to attend meetings and give their input, but never did.
Those townspeople say that’s because they didn’t know how much this would affect them.
"This was not disclosed on the ballot nor was it disclosed prior to the ballot," said resident, Tricia Robillard, who faces a $20-thousand bill. "Any conversation or anything that transpired after that bond vote passed in my opinion is bogus. You can’t go forward with a bond leveraging this town to the tune of $7.6-million and not know how that’s being paid back."
Town council chair Gary Beers wasn’t around for the initial vote, but says this is how betterment fee decisions have always been handled in the past, but a project this expensive has never been done before.
"I get it, I think everybody on council gets it," Beers said on Monday. "I think a phrase I’ve used several times, we’re facing a question that nobody has asked before. Nobody divided 153 into the number to see what it meant."
That came as little to no comfort to many of the residents who addressed the council and Sewer Department on Monday night.
"We've done some research," said Charles Greenwood. "You covered your butts legally, but you didn't ethically."
Greenwood says when all is said and done his costs will reach close to $55-thousand.
Ken Thumith attended Monday's workshop on behalf of a client and friend, Mary Dennett. He says Mary is 88-years old and is expected to pay $275,000 in the next ten years for this project. He also says Mary won't even be hooked up to the new sewage line, but it runs through her backyard.
"It's a crazy amount of money," Thumith said.
The council by the end of Monday's workshop had asked the interim town manager to put together a plan infusing other funding from the finance district, department designated reserve funding, and state-approved funds.
The town, Beers says, will also be applying to grants to help cover the cost.
The council will also be looking into changing the ordinance to allow homeowners a longer pay period than 10 years, and mitigating a 90-day mandate to connect to the town sewer system, which will help those who have new septic systems.
Once that report is handed over, the council will hold a public workshop with other town departments to finalize the details.
Beers says everything within this project will be put on hold until the town can figure out a better plan of payment.