Special Bethel Town Meeting cancelled

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Grant funding is denied

An Oct. 15 special Town Meeting in Bethel to decide on funding for proposed improvements to the Waste Water Treatment Plant has been cancelled.

Interim Town Manager David Holt said he learned Friday that a USDA Rural Development program grant of $485,000 – that the town had expected to receive for the project – had just been denied in Washington, D.C.

Holt said he was told that by the time Bethel would be scheduled to receive the funds, the town would no longer have enough debt from its current WWTP loans to qualify for the grant.

The Town Meeting article would have asked voters if they wished to continue with design and construction for WWTP improvements that had already been approved.

The work included safety and environmental improvements and the construction of a building to house a dewatering machine, which consolidates sludge for easier disposal. Other proposed improvements included new pumps, decking and a shed.

Earlier this year the WWTP’s capital improvement plan had budgeted for borrowing approximately $400,000 and using another $400,000 in grant money the town already had for the work. But in July the board received bids significantly above their expectations — $1,714,300 and $1,494,769.

In August the selectmen voted to apply for additional grant money, and were told in September they would receive the $485,000, to be paired with a total of $718,000 in loans. With that information in hand, the Oct. 15 Town Meeting was scheduled.

Holt said town officials will now look at other alternatives.

He also said he was surprised, disappointed and angry at the way USDA Rural Development had handled the situation.

Rural Development had originally supplied the amount of grant funds that Bethel would receive, Holt said. “The last minute change has left Bethel with no project and funds that had been required for engineering and legal now wasted,” he said.

The project will now have to be rebid because the environmental and safety work will still have to be addressed in some other way, said Holt.

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