Selectmen take no action on petition calling for town meeting
BEACON FALLS — Kurt Hummel is tired of paying for a sewer system his home on Patricia Terrace isn’t connected to.
“I believe it is unfair to charge residents for a service they don’t get,” Hummel said.
Hummel circulated a petition for a town meeting to discuss and possibly vote on the creation of a yearly tax credit of up to $500 for residents who have a septic system. Hummel’s plan would be that residents with septic tanks would be given a credit for what they pay to have their septic tank pumped each year. In Hummel’s case, that is $380.
Hummel said he doesn’t want himself or other residents to have to pay for both the sewer system and taking care of their own septic tanks. He said there is a sewer line that runs in front of Patricia Terrace, but the town has never extended it down to the residents on the street.
“It is quite unfair to expect taxpayers to pay when [the town doesn’t] have plans to extend the sewer line,” Hummel said.
Hummel’s petition, which was submitted to the Board of Selectmen on Aug. 8, was signed by 25 residents. The board voted unanimously to take no action on the petition.
According to Town Attorney Fred Stanek, Connecticut statutes state that a petition with at least 20 signatures could force a town meeting.
“However, there is case law stating that the Board of Selectmen is not required to schedule such a meeting and has no duty to warrant a meeting pursuant to such a petition unless the board is reasonably certain that the object of the petition is lawful, proper, and not frivolous,” Stanek said.
Stanek said the board had to consider whether it was proper and within the board’s authority to pass such an ordinance. Stanek’s legal opinion was that the answer to both those questions was no.
“It is my opinion that the enactment of such an ordinance would be infringing upon the authority of the Board of Finance with regard to the budget-making process,” Stanek said.
Selectman Michael Krenesky asked if the idea had been brought to the Board of Finance to gauge the impact it would have on the budget.
First Selectman Christopher Bielik didn’t think that was a necessary step.
“Whatever the actual numbers would be I think we can generally agree it would be a fairly substantial number and one that would have a detrimental impact on the revenue we collect in Beacon Falls for the operation of the municipal budget. Whatever that specific number is, it is not absolutely necessary that we know that number. I think we have enough of a sense of it to be able to make a decision about it,” Bielik said.
Bielik said the issue may become a moot point in the near future. The town is looking into the possibility of regionalizing its wastewater treatment with Seymour and would likely begin charging user fees rather than building the cost into the taxes if that plan moves forward, Bielik said.
“When we make whatever change we are going to make, that is a situation that will be dramatically changed. What they are asking for here, over time, will certainly be taken care of in the normal course of events,” Bielik said.
For Hummel, that change would be two decades in the making.
“I’ve been paying taxes in town for 20 years,” Hummel said in a phone interview. “They don’t seem to look after the whole town and all the residents who live in this town.”
Bielik felt if the town grants this credit, it may have to grant a lot more.
“My concern is opening a Pandora’s box for every person who can say, ‘I don’t have this, so therefore I should get a credit for it.’ If we did that we would be doing nothing but passing ordinances and finding ways to make up the revenue for the Board of Finance,” Bielik said.
Stanek told the board that its decision not to move forward with the petition does not necessarily mean the issue is over. He said the petitioners could take legal action to try and force a town meeting.
Hummel said he would consider taking legal action, but is afraid of how much it would cost.
“I’m not going to let it drop. I don’t believe it is fair,” Hummel said. “I don’t want to pull out of my pocket to go against the town. I’m a Boy Scout leader and a volunteer. I don’t have the money to fight the town.”