A fter nearly a year’s wait, Whitehall will get $2.74 million to repairs its sewers in the Elizabeth and Poultney Street and Park Avenue areas.
Village Mayor Pete Telisky confirmed that $2 million was federal grant money and the remaining federal money was an outright loan of $740,000.
The reward of the grant and loan monies was vindication for the Village of Whitehall, which has been applying for the monies since last fall, only to have its application for a combination of state and federal monies rejected in January.
At that point, Telisky said the entire matter was bumped up “to the federal level.” And the new grant-loan package is indeed a federal package through the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
“The village received the USDA grant and loan through the Rural Development Agency,” Telisky said.
The mayor credited three representatives on the federal level for their work in obtaining the grant and loan monies for the village: Senators Charles “Chuck” Schumer and Kristen Gillibrand, both D-N.Y., and Rep. Bill Owen, D-Plattsburgh. Telisky also expressed gratitude to Bob Murray of Queensbury’s Shelter Planning and Development Inc. and Gretchen Pinkel of USDA’s Rural Development Agency.
The mayor said that all five had worked closely with the village in obtaining the much-needed monies to upgrade its sewer system, which remains under a 2009 state Department of Environmental Conservation “consent order” to completely separate ground water from waste water. The estimated cost of that consent is $24 million.
Moreover, the village continues to pay on a $40 million bond obligation it assumed in the early seventies to build its current waste water treatment plant.
Grant and loan monies will help correct overflow problems
As the inheritor of a decades-old environmental problem, Telisky described himself and his fellow board members as “stewards of the environment.” Specifically, he said the repairs will help prevent sewage overflow into the state’s Champlain Canal and the federal Lake Champlain.
During “major washouts,” the village’s 40-year-old sewer plant has to be shut-down, and there “is overflow both into the canal and Lake Champlain.” Telisky added that the sewer repairs would also put less stress on the village’s sewer plant.
Specific work to be done
According to the USDA, the current grant and loan monies will eliminate storm-water and sewer cross connections, consolidate to better manage sewer overflows, and rehabilitate the worst parts of gravity sewer mains. In layman’s terms, Telisky explained storm-water and sewer lines in the designated areas would be replaced, and broken tiles and pipes would be fixed.
Announcement made on federal level
The awarding of the money was jointly made by Schumer and Gillibrand in Washington, D.C.
“This federal funding,” Schumer said, “will take a tremendous financial burden off of the village and allow Whitehall to begin construction right away that is vital to its long-term prosperity.”
“This is an important investment for the Village of Whitehall,” Senator Gillibrand said. “We need to protect our community while ensuring our residents don’t bear the tax burden of clean-up when damaged sewers overflow.”
“This is wonderful news for this small struggling community,” Telisky said. “We have been working on this problem for decades, searching for ways to be able to afford to make necessary upgrades to our waste treatment system.”