Towns awaiting word on grants for infrastructure 5/20/2014

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Towns awaiting word on grants for infrastructure

By John Howell

Como town officials — as well as those in Sardis, Crenshaw and other northwest Mississippi municipalities — will be anxiously awaiting word from the Mississippi Development Authority about Community Development Block Grants (CDBG) whose applications were delivered by the North Delta Planning Development District (NDPDD) on Friday.

Sign up for our daily email newsletter

Get the latest news sent to your inbox

The municipalities are seeking the $450,000 CDBG for infrastructure rehabilitation.

Como’s mayor and aldermen during their May 13 meeting heard engineer Jack Farmer of Cook Coggin Engineers describe problems with the town’s wastewater treatment plant and recommendations for improvements to bring it into compliance with Mississippi Dept. of Evironmental Quality (MDEQ) regulations.

Farmer’s report from the engineering firm included findings of an inspection of the facility on March 18 that included an MDEQ official, Como city maintenance supervisor Darrick Ellis, Como’s certified water and sewer operation K. T. Newman, Farmer and another Cook Coggin Engineers representative.

People familiar with Como’s wastewater treatment plant — former town maintenance supervisor Tommy Rayburn, present maintenance supervisor Ellis and certified operator Newman among them — have been warning for several years about the wastewater treatment plant’s tenuous operating condition.

The Cook Coggin Engineers report cites the deficiencies, proposals and cost estimates for remediation that will bring the facility into MDEQ compliance. The report also included a proposed Agreed Order drafted by MDEQ by which Como would avoid a formal enforcement hearing. Instead, the town would agree to pay a $1,750 penalty and to bring the wastewater treatment plant into compliance within the next two years. The order also stipulates additional penalties if specific water quality criteria is not met within the two-year deadlines.

Farmer told Como’s mayor and aldermen that their engineering recommendation included funds from the $450,000 CDBG plus a $350,000 from a Water Pollution Control Emergency Loan Fund (WPCELF), for a total $800,000 project to bring the waste water treatment plant into compliance.

However, Mayor Hill told Farmer that the town would prefer to apply for the CDBG only, and seek additional funds from the United States Dept. of Agriculture’s office of Rural Development.

“What we want to do is move forward with the CDBG, … because we don’t want to miss applying, and go to work with Rural Development … on fixing the whole project,” Hill told Farmer. Hill said that instead of seeking $350,000 from WPCELF, he preferred applying for a larger amount from Rural Development.

“If you’re going to bring in a loan, we need to be getting enough money to fix the problem,” the mayor said.

The mayor said that he has received assurances from Rural Development officials that money is available for Como. The USDA has water and waste disposal direct loans and grants available through its office of Rural Development, its web site states.

NDPPD program representative Jeff Walton, who is working with the town and the engineer to prepare the CDBG application, followed Farmer. He told the Como officials that the application would be completed and delivered to MDA on Friday — along with the applications from Sardis, Crenshaw and other small municipalities seeking a share of the funds. Walton said that the decision about the grants will come in two or three months.