The August 22 issue of the Genesee Country Express ran a front page article concerning two grants the Village of Dansville has been awarded for our waste water treatment plant (WWTP) project. Unfortunately, the article has left many people confused.
Before I go into those issues, I want to remind you that this project is being financed through the New York State Environmental Facilities Corporation (EFC) at zero percent interest. The amount of the loan is up to $13.1 million, though the actual cost is projected at a bit less than that. Currently, the project is on budget and a little ahead of schedule. The exterior walls of the sequence batch reactor (SBR) tank have been completed. Other structures are also progressing well, with the new system expected to be completed sometime this coming winter. At that point, the flow of sewage will be switched to the new system and the old one demolished or incorporated into the upgrade.
The initial confusion in the Express article arises out of an Aug. 8, 2013, letter I received from Matthew Driscoll, EFC president and CEO, which informed me that the Village has qualified to receive a grant not to exceed $2 million. The exact amount was to be determined after the project is completed. However, later in the month, while I was on vacation, a phone conference was held between the Village (including our engineering firm, MRB Group) and EFC during which we were told that we would receive the full grant amount ($2 million) up front. That statement is supposed to be confirmed in writing, though I have yet to see the letter. The only conclusion which can be drawn at this time is that at some point we will receive a grant to go toward the cost of the EFC loan, and said grant will not exceed $2 million. While any amount is welcome, it will not come close to covering the full cost of the loan.
The second grant causing confusion concerns composting. Before I get into that, a little history is in order here as well. When the WWTP project was first designed, it included a composting facility recycling the waste solids produced by the sewage treatment process. Simply put, the bulk of the water would be removed and the remaining “cake” would be mixed with wood chips to produce a rich compost the Village and rate payers could then use on lawns and flower gardens. The present process is unable to adequately remove the water, and that results in the Village having to pay a licensed contractor to haul the predominately liquid material out to a facility which can remove the water so that the cake can be deposited in a landfill. That costs us approximately $165,000 per year at present, with the cost and restrictions increasing.
As much as we wanted to have the composting facility, it was removed from the project when we were arranging the funding because we were told at the time that in order to qualify for an EFC hardship loan (no interest) we would have to keep the cost of the project below $14 million; we were at $15 million plus. It is worth noting that even without the composting facility, we are in a better position concerning the sludge because the project still includes a belt press which will remove the required level of water from the waste so that it can be transported directly to a landfill. Instead of hiring out the hauling, we will be in a position to do it ourselves.
After qualifying for the zero-percent loan, we learned the hardship ceiling had been changed from $14 million to $18 million and that the composting facility would also get the zero percent interest funding. Also impacting the decision whether to reinstate the facility were other factors. One of the top considerations was Superintendent of Public Works Scott Tracy’s willingness to erect the building using the DPW crew. Only the concrete work would be contracted out. Tracy is experienced in construction. Also figuring into the decision was the fact that the composting facility would be eligible for a Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) (not EFC) grant for 50 percent of the cost.
While we are the list, there are a couple of catches to the grant: it is paid after the completion of the project and it has not been funded to keep up with the demand. Consequently, there is a waiting list of 3-5 years for municipalities to get their money. A Village Board concern has been that there is the remote possibility the money will not be there when it rolls around for us to be paid. That being said, last month the Village Board took a leap of faith and, rather than be paralyzed into inaction by what if, approved adding the composting facility back into the project.
Until next time, God bless and watch out for the children now that school is back in session.