St. Armand faces sewer funding gap

BLOOMINGDALE – Town of St. Armand officials are seeking more grant funding to help close a sizable funding gap on their $4.8 million sewer system upgrade.

Without the additional money, the town’s sewer customers could end up paying through the roof for the project.

“Each home on the sewer system would end up paying $849 per year over and above what their normal payment is for water and sewer right now,” Supervisor Charles Whitson said at Tuesday night’s town board meeting. “Right now there is no way I could sit here and say, ‘Yes, that would pass.’ So that’s the reason why we’re going after more grant money.”

The town has been under a state Department of Environmental Conservation consent order to upgrade its sewer system since 2009. The town’s wastewater treatment plant is too small, much of its equipment is nearing the end of its useful life, and the liners for the town’s two sewer lagoons are deteriorating. A sewer pump station on River Road is also overworked and needs to be replaced.

In October, the state offered the town a hefty financing package for the project: a $2 million grant and a 30-year-interest-free loan. But with cost of the upgrades near $5 million, Whitson said the town needs to find more grant money to help reduce that gap, or the annual payments on the loan will be more than the town’s sewer district customers can afford.

Whitson said he met last week in Plattsburgh with various stakeholders in the project, including the town’s engineering consultants and officials from Essex County.

“We were working out places where we were going to go looking for grants and extra funding,” Whitson said. “We came up with a list of people and an attack plan for contacting each one of these groups and individuals to plead our case for grant funding. I’m optimistic that our grant money is going to be much better than just the $2 million it sits at right now.”

In the meantime, town officials will be mailing out a questionnaire to their sewer district customers. Among other things, people will be asked to list how many people live in the home and provide their median income.

Whitson said he expects the information could help improve the town’s chances of getting more grant money.

“There was a survey done back in 2010, and the state came out with a number, saying that’s what the median income is for people in the sewer district,” the supervisor said. “We want to show that it’s not that high anymore, which could make us eligible for more grant funding. We’re trying to shrink that gap.”

If homeowners don’t respond to the questionnaire promptly, Whitson said town officials or representatives of the group that’s assisting the town with the survey will be knocking on people’s doors.