August 3, 2009

Stimulus funds boost Chesterfield project

<img src="/homepage/images_image_276103054" alt="&#149;">&nbsp;&nbsp;Federal-stimulus will provide $5.1M toward cost of new system



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CHESTERFIELD — A $5.1 million federal-stimulus grant will help pay for the new water-treatment system in Port Kent that no one wanted but had to have.

U.S. Sens. Charles Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand jointly announced in a news release that the town would receive a $5,111,400 grant through the U.S. Department of Agriculture as part of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act and would carry a $100,000 direct loan.

"Quality infrastructure development is critical to the economic health not only of Chesterfield but for all of Essex County," Schumer said.

"This funding will ensure that our water infrastructure is up to snuff to provide safe, quality drinking water to residents and create jobs in the process."

Town Supervisor Gerald Morrow said he is pleased the community was one of the few rural towns nationwide to receive money from Washington.

Chesterfield had been cited in 2003-04 by the State Department of Health because its existing spring-water system did not meet new federal Environmental Protection Agency guidelines for surface-water contamination.

The town investigated its options and decided to create a municipal-well system at an estimated cost of $4 million.

Morrow said $2 million would have come from the Office of Rural Development Environmental Facilities Corp. and another $900,000 from a 30-year, no-interest loan.

The system also would have cost each of the 149 users in Port Kent $1,200 a year for water service.

But the Town Council decided that was too expensive and sought alternatives.

"This was an unfunded mandate," Morrow said. "We were all right with our spring system. Sure, there was a water ban once in a while, but people were paying $300 a year.

"And now to jump it to $1,200? People can't afford that. People didn't want it."

To add to the challenges, in drilling test wells during the next several years the town could not find an adequate groundwater source for the municipal system.

Having watched the town exhaust all of its avenues to correct the situation, the Health Department and State Department of Environmental Conservation approved the town's use of Lake Champlain as a water source in 2008.

But the cost of drawing water from the lake doubled the project cost to $8.1 million.

Morrow said he went to every local representative to plead his case — it apparently worked, because the announcement of the grant and loan came Monday.

He said the $5.1 million grant, added to the $2 million promised from Rural Development and consolidation of the $900,000 no-interest loan and the $100,000 required loan, will pay for the elaborate system.

And the financing the town worked out lowers the water bills to the Port Kent residents to $600 a year, Morrow said.

The system will work in two stages, with the first one nearly complete. That involved installing the distribution system throughout Port Kent, which tore up the roads and caused inconvenience to everyone.

"But the people there have been great," Morrow said. "Not one complaint."

Phase 2 will be the installation of 700 feet of piping into the lake bottom, which is deeded to the LTC Ferry Co.

It has also given Chesterfield a life lease on the land on which the pumping station will sit.

The water will be drawn from near the ferry site on Route 373, be treated and chlorinated on property the town is buying on Trembleau Road and then be stored in a 170,000-gallon holding tank.

Morrow hopes the project will be completed by June 2010.

E-mail Denise A. Raymo at: