The ripple effects of a half-million dollar grant Newtown received May 19 will have immediate and positive implications for property owners waiting to hook up to a new Hawleyville sewer line extension.
The new funding stream will also provide added incentive for developers considering new economic development projects in the area, and long-term benefits for local taxpayers who might have to partially underwrite the project if assessments on users fail to cover the installation cost.
The $500,000 grant was announced as one of 28 awarded Monday by Governor Dannel P. Malloy under the state’s Small Town Economic Assistance Program (STEAP). The grants target a variety of economic development, community conservation and quality-of-life projects across Connecticut.
Local officials were ecstatic about the latest news, promoting its benefits during the Monday evening Board of Selectmen meeting. The sewer extension project is being touted as a means to retain, or attract and fast-track commercial development in the area adjacent to Interstate 84 and Exit 9.
“These small town grants allow the state to partner with municipalities on projects that will help improve our communities, rebuild our infrastructure, and create jobs,” Governor Malloy said in his announcement. “These are investments that will make our towns a better place to live and work, will increase the quality of life, and help attract economic development and growth.”
State Reps. Mitch Bolinsky (R-106), Dan Carter and DebraLee Hovey said in a separate release that the State Bond Commission will meet soon to allocate general obligation funds, although the delegation has been assured by a member of the bond commission that the "Small Town Economic Assistance Program" (STEAP) grants are already approved and funded, including the $500,000 for which Newtown applied.
The Hawleyville sewer system expansion would extend sewer mains from 166 Mt Pleasant Road eastward along Mt Pleasant Road to its intersection with Hawleyville Road. The sewer mains also would extend northward along sections of Hawleyville Road and Covered Bridge Road.
Rep. Bolinsky said the local delegation became aware of the pending grant award just a couple days before the end of the 2014 legislative session.
“We became aware of the possibility we could lock-in and expedite this very desirable grant money,” Rep. Bolinsky said. “This STEAP grant is a welcome infusion of cash to help Newtown's efforts to bring the much-needed Hawleyville sewer line extension to fruition. This line is needed to spur the economic development necessary to grow our local tax base without further burdening homeowners.”
Rep. Bolinsky pointed out that, once fully underway, the project will provide local construction jobs as well as longer-term employment opportunities as development occurs and businesses open.
“The Exit 9 corridor provides attractive, highway-accessible, yet undeveloped sites for responsible development and now, the last remaining infrastructure element is being put in place to make success possible,” he added. “I am so excited we were able to make this happen as quickly as we did.”
“Investing in important infrastructure upgrades like these benefits the entire community and I’m happy these funds are being made available for Newtown,” Rep. Hovey said.
“This grant will help open up the door for greater economic development within our community – this is great news for Newtown taxpayers,” Rep. Carter said. “This investment helps set the stage for opportunities as we seek to position Newtown as a regional destination for growth.”
Interest By Property Owners
During the selectmen’s meeting Public Works Director Fred Hurley noted that even before the grant announcement, he was poised to bring good news to town officials. He reported that as many as seven property owners have either delivered, or pledged to deliver letters of interest in hooking up to the new extension.
Mr Hurley said that this level of commitment would ensure that most or all of the offset cost for the project, which was already approved and bonded, would be borne by assessments on new users. He said that the grant would additionally lessen assessments for all committed and future users because it would be applied to the overall cost of the job.
“And it will bring the costs down for those looking to come to town,” Mr Hurley said.
Finance Director Robert Tait told selectmen that since the sewer project was already bonded, $500,000 would revert back to a debt service fund to be applied toward the bond’s principal. The new funding also extends the period of time for users to hook up, greatly reducing the likelihood that taxpayers would eventually need to foot part of the bill.
It was previously estimated that if too few new users apply to hook up to the new sewer line, taxpayers would be required to begin covering the offset costs in the 2016 fiscal year. But Mr Tait said because of the added and unanticipated funding, that scenario will be bumped out to the 2019 fiscal year.
“Now we have five years to get enough development on line,” Mr Tait said.
First Selectman Pat Llodra, and Selectmen Will Rodgers and James Gaston, Sr. praised Economic and Community Development Director Elizabeth Stocker, and her staffers Betsy Paynter and Christal Preszler for their work on the grant application.
“The timeliness of this application was very successful and impactful,” Mrs Llodra said.