BLOOMINGDALE - The town of St. Armand has been awarded a hefty financing package from the state to help pay for millions of dollars in upgrades to its ailing sewer system.
The state Environmental Facilities Corporation has offered this town of roughly 1,500 people a $2 million grant and a 30-year interest-free loan for the project, which has an estimated price tag of $4.5 million.
The money would be used to upgrade the town's wastewater treatment plant, located off of River Road, and a sewer pump station on River Road. The town's engineer on the project, Todd Hodgson of AES Northeast, said the lift station's pumps are overworked and need to be replaced. He also said the sewer 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.
The town of St. Armand has been offered a state grant and loan package to upgrade its sewer system, including these sewage containment lagoons off River Road in Bloomingdale, seen in April.
(Enterprise file photo — Chris Knight)
"I don't want to give you the impression that it's an emergency, but it could create a situation where there could be an emergency," Deputy Supervisor Sam Grimone said at a special town board meeting Tuesday night.
Since 2009, the town has been under a state Department of Environmental Conservation consent order to bring its sewer plant into compliance with state Environmental Conservation Law. Among the problems, the sewer plant's effluent, which drains into Sumner Brook and from there to the Saranac River, has exceeded its permitted limits for "Carbonaceous Biochemical Oxygen Demand" during late winter and/or early spring every year from 1997 through 2011. DEC inspectors have also cited the town for not following the proper monitoring and recording requirements at the sewer plant. Its staffing, operations and maintenance were also found to be lacking.
Town officials have blamed the problems at the sewer plant on neglected maintenance and attempts to cut costs at the facility.
Town and Essex County officials have been working for several years to find funding to repair and upgrade the sewer system. Outside funding has been seen as a necessity; town board members said Tuesday that it would have cost the sewer district's roughly 300 users $700 each per year to pay for the upgrades on their own.
Now that the town has been offered financing through EFC, it needs to act fast. Hodgson and EFC's Jason Denno, who joined Tuesday's meeting via conference call, told the town board that several important deadlines are quickly approaching.
"I think the town should be appreciative that the state handed out $2 million," Hodgson said. "It's a fantastic thing, but now it starts things going."
By Nov. 19, the town needs to complete the state environmental review and historic preservation review process. Before that, Denno said the town needs to get a contractor on board "as quickly as possible" to finalize an engineering report and submit it to the DEC, the state Adirondack Park Agency and the state historic preservation office.
Hodgson noted that the town can't afford to pay for full engineering services for the project up front, so he came prepared with a proposal for his company to do the work in stages at what he said were discounted rates. The board subsequently approved a resolution to contract with AES. Hodgson said he should have the engineering report done by the end of next week.
A completed financing application has to be submitted to EFC by Feb. 1. The town also has to pass a bond resolution by that date, since it will need to secure a short-term loan for the $4.5 million until it's reimbursed by EFC. Hodgson said he'd help the town find other sources of funding.
By the end of the meeting, Grimone said he felt reassured that the town will be able to meet the tight timetable.
"The county and (EFC) and AES have made me feel a lot better," he said. "My gut says this might not be easy, but it can be done."
The town will take part in a conference call with EFC officials today.
Hodgson said the sewer upgrades, if everything goes according to plan, would be complete by March 2016.
Supervisor Joyce Morency was absent from Tuesday night's roughly 90-minute meeting, and Councilman Don Amell had to leave about halfway through it.
Contact Chris Knight at 518-891-2600 ext. 24 or email@example.com.