OLD LYME — A state official confirmed Monday that the town is not currently on the state’s Clean Water Funds priority list to receive a 25 percent grant for the Sound View Beach sewer project, but once the town approves bond funding, the project will be eligible for 25 percent grants in the design and construction phases.
The town is also not under a deadline this summer that would result in a loss of grant funding, according to George Hicks, Supervising Sanitary Engineer of the Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection’s Bureau of Water Protection and Land Reuse, who spoke to CT Examiner by phone on Monday.
Hicks said the town was on the Clean Water Funds priority list in 2017 when it appeared the town was ready to move forward with the project. Old Lyme was later removed from the list, when it was revised for the 2018 and 2019 fiscal years and the Sound View project was not yet bonded.
Before the town can advance the project, it must first appropriate all design and construction costs by passing the $9.5 million referendum, Hicks explained. At that point, the town can receive a 25 percent grant for the design phase from a “general set-aside” fund reserved for small projects such as Sound View. Once the design phase is completed, Sound View will be listed as a fundable construction project for a “community set-aside” fund, that was created for small projects that would otherwise struggle to compete against larger projects with more points and higher rankings.
Contradicts statements by Old Lyme officials
At the June 3 Board of Selectman meeting, First Selectwoman Bonnie Reemsnyder said it was important for the town to pass the referendum this summer in order to keep its place on the Clean Water Funds list.
“We can’t wait beyond this summer because we are on the list for the state to take on this project for clean water funds. They were hoping we’d go to bond last year but we didn’t because we were sensitive to not rushing this without having a lot of these answers. We have a lot more information this year than we had last year… but I don’t think we can wait beyond this year.”
Reemsnyder has said the town has been on the Clean Water Funds list since 2012. She could not be reached for comment on Monday evening.
“It would be a disaster if we wait, and waiting will have other consequences in terms of price,” said Richard Prendergast, chair of Old Lyme’s Water Pollution Control Authority, who presented a draft of the Sound View sewer project at the June 3 Board of Selectmen meeting. CT Examiner reached out to Prendergast by email on Friday, but had not received a reply as of Monday evening.
Hicks said the Clean Water Funds are not reserved for projects that are on hold and that Old Lyme will be eligible when the project is funded.
“We can’t hold the money at the expense of other projects that are ready to go. We don’t hold the construction money but we will have funding for design when a project is ready to go,” he said.
The priority list is updated periodically, depending on projects in process and available funding, Hicks said.
“Roughly every two years, we make a priority list and the towns submit requests,” Hicks said. “We don’t necessarily make a new list every two years. It depends on a number factors including projects in-process and funding from previous fiscal years not yet spent.”
He said the fiscal 2018/19 list will remain in effect until the state makes a new one. “We have so many projects right now, so don’t need to make new list,” he said.
For its two-year list, the state uses a point system to rank towns’ projects. A municipality has to have “a lot of points” and has to be ready to proceed during that two year period, he said. Smaller projects that don’t have enough points can funded through set-aside funds, he said.
Hicks said all of the Connecticut towns’ projects are listed in the back of the Clean Water Funds book, which can be confusing.
“We rank all the projects in the back of the book, so your name may appear there,” he said. “Old Lyme isn’t on the list right now. You’re not on there indefinitely and it’s not uncommon to be dropped off and added again, depending on the funding in a 2-year period.”
Clean Water Funds limited in application
Hicks also clarified that the 25 percent grant would not apply to the entire project.
“We have set of regulations 69 pages long of line items of what’s eligible and what’s not,” he said. “We’ll pay (25 percent) for the sewer they build in the street and laterals up to the property line, but no work on private property.”
The exception is properties that require a grinder pump, a wastewater conveyance device, which would be eligible for 25 percent funding.
“We would pay for grinder pump and the pipe to the street and the town would have to own it, operate it and pay for maintenance,” he said.
He also said legal services and interest on the loan from the state, at 2 percentage per year for 20 years, are not eligible for Clean Water Funds.