OLD LYME — The town has partnered with three chartered beach associations in a $14 million federal grant request to cover the costs of shared sewer infrastructure in the town’s shoreline communities.
All four parties say the grant is needed because of construction bids that have skyrocketed since the beginning of the pandemic.
“Our projects are ‘shovel ready,’ but we are in dire need of financial assistance so we may begin the work,” wrote First Selectman Tim Griswold in an April 13 letter to Sen. Richard Blumenthal, Sen. Chris Murphy, and Congressman Joe Courtney that was part of the grant application.
The State and Tribal Assistance Grant, known as STAG, would be used to construct the shared force main, pump station, trunk sewer, and bioxide station, which is used for odor control and a treatment that prevents the effluent from corroding the pipes.
Two rounds of bids came in higher than expected, and the current price tag “is not economically feasible,” wrote Richard Prendergast, chair of the Old Lyme Water Pollution Control Authority, in an April 12 letter to Blumenthal, Murphy and Courtney that is part of the grant application packet.
Prendergast said that the goal of the The Long Island Sound Study Comprehensive Conservation and Management Plan to clean up the environment for future generations will be unsuccessful if the sewer project is halted. He said that delays due to COVID have led to increased costs that could render the project out of reach.
“The town and the partner associations have done the difficult and costly work to plan, design and bid the project, but, due to the 2-year Connecticut Clean Water State Revolving Fund hiatus in funding, the cost has risen above our ability to pay,” he wrote.
Matthew Merritt, president of Old Lyme Shores Beach Association, wrote that the timing of soliciting construction bids could not have been worse.
“The first round of bids occurred in early 2021 and reflected increased post-covid costs that were nearly double the project estimates,” and said the second round, while slightly lower, “remained well beyond the limits of funding authorizations making the project financially unviable.”
The Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection filed a consent order for the town’s Sound View Beach and Miscellaneous Area B in June 2015 and a unified order for the three beach associations in February 2018, after an initial order in 2012, to implement a wastewater management plan.
“Unfortunately the bids well exceed the cost expectation from 12 years ago, [making] this project not feasibly effective,” wrote Frank Noe, chair of the Water Pollution Control Authority, Old Colony Beach Club.
Mark Mongill, president of the Miami Beach Association, wrote that the bids were 40 to 45 percent higher than the $11.32 million bond approved by Miami Beach owners in 2014.
Scott Boulanger, chair of the Water Pollution Control Authority of the Miami Beach Association, wrote that while his association, in unison with the town and the two other beach associations, wants to eliminate pollution along Long Island Sound, “the costs from our current bids made this project unobtainable.”
The grant requires a 20 percent match, or $2.8 million, that the town will “make available,” according to the grant application. However, Prendergast said each of the four entities will pay a portion of the match based on a percentage of ownership of the project.
The grant application also indicates that the town and the three beach associations have spent a total of $4.1 million for planning, design and permitting to date. Those costs are being managed and paid, for now, by the Old Colony Beach Club Association, but will be proportionally rolled into the final loan amounts that each of the four entities will borrow for their own sewer construction costs, according to Doug Whalen, chair of the Old Colony Beach Club Association.
Whalen said the town and the three beach associations are working with Mark Boughton, commissioner of the Connecticut Department of Revenue Services, to pursue additional federal infrastructure grants.
The application was submitted before the April 15 deadline. Prendergast said that preliminary grant decisions will be made on April 25 and, if approved, the town and beach associations will need to answer more questions about the project.
“We’re asking for more money because we need it. It’s more than they have traditionally given in the past but in Hartford and Stamford they’ve asked for big bucks and gotten it,” Prendergast told CT Examiner.
The application states that the bidding phase will be June-August 2022 and that construction will take place from Sept. 2022 through Sept. 2023.