Selectmen Candidates: Should Half The Sewer Debt Be Shifted to the Tax Levy
Candidates off their opinions on the lone referendum question on the April 2 ballot.
When voters in Tewksbury go to the polls on April 2, they won't just be selecting candidates. They will also be deciding on a referendum question that would shift half the town's $101 million sewer debt to the tax levy.
If approved, sewer customers would avoid a massive rate increase and, in some cases, rates would actually decrease. Meanwhile, property taxes would increase for all property owners.
We asked the three candidates running for the Board of Selectmen if they support the ballot question.
Ed Sullivan says he is definitely opposed to the ballot question. He called it a quick fix for a mistake the town made several years ago and that it sets a bad precedent.
"What do you gain by doing a quick fix?" said Sullivan. "The seniors aren't going to see a benefit. My kids aren't going to see a benefit, even if they connect to sewer some time in the next 41 years.
"They're trying to sell it (to voters) but they don't tell you it's going to be going on for 41 years."
Jim Biewener also believes the original vote to approve the massive sewer project and the way the payment plan was structured was a mistake. But he said it serves no purpose to assign blame and swell in the past. He said he believes now is the time to move forward.
"You don't want to dwell on history but you want to learn from history," said Biewener. "On a personal level, I would vote 'yes' to shift the debt. The sewer is something everyone has the opportunity to benefit from."
Biewener added that he felt Town Manager Richard Montouri had done a "fantastic job" by putting the decision on the debt shift in the hands of the voters.
Incumbent Doug Sears says the sewer project was a good idea but he feels the original cost-estimates were "low-balled" and that $20 million was added to the price tag later. He also stressed that he was not on the board at the time the project went before the voters.
"But now it's done and it's got to be paid for," said Sears, who expressed support for the debt shift. "The fairest way is to let the people decide. It the question doesn't pass, we still have to pay for it. And the sewer rates are going to shoot up."
Election Day in Tewksbury is April 2.
For a complete recap of the Tewksbury Patch Election 2011 coverage to date, click here.