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News Feature

Originally published in Island Ad-Vantages, May 1, 2014
Stonington Water company gets $1.2 million grant/loan
Funds to fix aged system

by Rich Hewitt

The Stonington Water Company has received formal approval for a $1.2 million federal grant/loan package that will allow the utility to make improvements to the water system’s ailing infrastructure.

The federal funding from the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Rural Development program includes a direct loan of $757,000 and a grant in the amount of $443,000.

The water company had applied for the federal funding last year and, after supplying additional information to the USDA, had received indications that the funding would be approved. The town’s selectmen, who serve as the water company directors, have been waiting since the first of the year for the official approval.

The funding will provide the means to make some of the necessary improvements to the aging system, according to Town Manager Kathleen Billings-Pezaris.

“It’s nice to finally be able to do some substantial work with the water company,” she said. “This will definitely help with some of the issues we’ve been having.”

Billings-Pezaris said this kind of funding is essential for small towns and small water companies such as Stonington.

“With the infrastructure costs as high as they are, there is no way that a small company, with a small amount of people using the system, could afford to keep up with the infrastructure,” she said. “Without access to these kinds of funds, we just wouldn’t be able to do it.”

The work outlined in the grant/loan application is based on an evaluation report prepared last spring by Olver Associates which has managed the system since last April. The proposed projects target all areas of the water system’s infrastructure: the wells, the pump house and monitoring equipment, as well as the main transmission lines and distribution lines.

Part of the funding also will be used to pay off existing loans, easing the impact of loan payments on the water company budget.

Although the application outlined specific projects, Annaliese Hafford, an engineer with Olver who has overseen the water company operations, said the utility may be able to work with Rural Development to adjust the work priorities to include other issues that have been uncovered since the application was prepared.

That process likely will begin this month, according to Billings-Pezaris. She said she hoped to be able to pay off the existing loans and put out the bid for the construction loans within the month. Work on some of the prioritized projects could start in late summer.