Grants may help create Potsdam water district

W.T. ECKERT/WATERTOWN DAILY TIMESPotsdam Town Board members could get more that $5 million in grants from the state USDA Rural Development for the creation of a water and sewer district in the Sissonville Road-Route 56-Unionville area. Previously, the creation of the new district was fiscally out of reach, but with local manufacturer LC Drives developing in the area, the project has new life.

POTSDAM — Town Board members got promising news Tuesday night when they heard the town would be eligible for substantial funding to help create a new water and sewer district in the Unionville, Sissonville Road and Route 56 corridor, but nothing is yet set in stone.

For economic development reasons, board members, a number of years ago, decided to try and promote economic development by having a water district on Route 56 but the estimates they received were higher than they liked, leading to a tabling of the project, Town Supervisor Ann M. Carvill said.

“So, in any case, there is a new factor that has entered into it, which suddenly made something that seemed to be dead in the water, not so much so,” she said.

That new factor is innovative motor maker LC Drives.

The Town Planning Board on June 25 approved LC Drives building a 120,000-square-foot factory at 6968 Route 56, potentially leading to 200 new jobs.

The manufacturer expressed interest in tapping into the water and sewer district if it is created, bringing the cost of the project down.

Moreover, Kevin P. Feuka, of Capital Consultants Inc, P.C., (C2AE), told the board that the U.S. Department of Agriculture Rural Development responded to a funding application to help pay for the development of the water and sewer district from the town with a “funding eligibility determination,” Mr. Feuka said.

For the water project, USDA Rural Development proposed a 38-year loan of $1.6 million at 2⅛ percent interest. Because of the issue of the dug wells not meeting current standards and median household income, the agency proposed a grant of $3.125 million, roughly 75 percent of the project costs. The dollar amounts were rounded figures, Mr. Feuka said.

For the sewer project, there is not a similar documented problem, however, they provided an estimate of $2.391 million, 45 percent of the project cost. Without a violation or a health or safety standard issue, that’s the most they can give a project, Mr. Feuka said.

The loan amount would be $3.1 million at a 2.75 percent interest rate for 38 years. The figures were estimates based on the typical grants given to communities of comparable size and based on what construction costs are at that point.

Mrs. Carvill said she had spoken to representatives at USDA Rural Development, who told her that the estimated water project funding was the most generous grant she has seen in her 11 years with the federal agency. Mr. Feuka agreed, calling them “unfounded numbers.”

“That exceeded my expectations, based on what this process started a couple of years ago, of what you could get from rural development,” Mr. Feuka said about the proposed sewer project funding.

He said the estimates were generous because the town met different considerations the federal funding program has to bring water and sewer to lower income communities, rural areas that could benefit from it.

Part of that consideration involves residents in the area who have dug wells that do not meet current state Department of Health standards but are grandfathered in, meaning they are not in violation.

“That is what helps the USDA Rural Development wanting to invest,” Mr. Feuka said. “To alleviate that problem and future problems, like if the wells go dry or become contaminated.”

Seven residents with dug wells in that area agreed to have their water sampled and one came back with a positive test for coliform bacteria, which is found in the digestive tract and fecal matter of animals, including humans, as well as in plant and soil material, according to the state DOH.

The bacteria is usually found from agricultural runoff, Mr. Feuka said.

Board members then passed two resolutions related to seeking financial assistance from the U.S. Department of Commerce Economic Development Administration and the Empire State Development for the construction of a sanitary Sewer Collection System with improvements to existing wastewater treatment facility for the Route 56 Sewer District.

The financial assistance from the two agencies, if granted will also help in the construction of a water distribution and storage system with improvement to an existing supply source and treatment system for the Route 56 Water District.

The federal grant could be about $3 million and the state grant is estimated to potentially be $1 million, Mr. Feuka said.

Johnson Newspapers 7.1

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