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Costly mandatory sewer project angers Coventry residents

Coventry residents are angry that the town is trying to mandate a large payment -- upwards of $20,000 in some cases -- per home for the installation of sewers under the streets. (WJAR)

Town leaders in Coventry are putting a halt to a sewer plan that has divided its community.

Residents are angry that the town is trying to mandate a large payment -- upwards of $20,000 in some cases -- per home for the installation of sewers under the streets.

Jamie LeBlanc, who lives on Hazard Street, doesn’t want the sewers. He said when he moved into his home in 2013, the town told him that it was not going to install sewers on the road because it would be too expensive.

But the town later told him to put in a septic system.

LeBlanc spent $12,000 to install one, and now the town is telling him it has to go.

“I honestly feel that someone from the town came into my home, stole a blank check and is holding it hostage in town hall,” LeBlanc said.

The town’s proposal allows payment in installments over 20 years, with a six percent interest rate, which will bring the total cost per residence to more than $34,000. It will also cost each home another $5,000 to $7,000 to hook up to the main sewer line.

“Septic systems fail. Cesspools fail. Sewer systems don’t fail,” said Ed Warzycha, who spoke on behalf of the town. “Another reason to move forward with the sewers is to protect the water systems -- lakes, ponds.”

Many of the homes are near Tiogue Lake and the Pawtuxet River. Residents understand that, but wonder why the cost is so high.

“The sewer systems can help us. I’m all for them. Hopefully they can make them affordable,” said Alan Burke, a 33-year resident of the town.

The “pause” in the project will allow the town to assess the financial impact and figure out a way to lessen the burden for residents.

“I think you’ll see that if they don’t want it or it’s not affordable, then they wouldn’t be going into those streets,” said Warzycha.

LeBlanc said he thinks taxpayers should have more of a say.

“The town council -- five people -- decided that this was appropriate," added LeBlanc. "This should have gone to a referendum and it should have gone to the homeowners and the tax payers to say, ‘Yes, let’s go ahead with this project,’ or, ‘Let’s stop it!’”

There will be a town forum Oct. 16 at 6 p.m. at the town’s high school for those who want more information or to voice their opinions.

The town website is also keeping residents up-to-date on the process on the sewer department page.

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