Village finds free funds have long strings attached

KINDERHOOK–The Village Board trying to meet conditions set by the state for receiving grant money awarded to the village in December. The $285,000 grant would partially fund a major sewer project to connect businesses in the village to the Valatie sewer system.

But now, said Kinderhook Mayor Carol Weaver in an interview with The Columbia Paper this week, “The board is really rethinking this whole project.”

The grant from the Capital Region Economic Development Council was awarded to the village on December 23. The money was going to be added to a $177,000 grant the village received through a shared municipal project grant–Valatie also will get $177,000–and letters of commitment for another $60,000 from two different business owners in the village. The total cost of the sewer project, which would affect 35 businesses and residents in the village, is $700,000, and the board discussed borrowing the rest of the funds.

Then the village got another letter from the state on January 25 with several stipulations added to the grant, including an income survey and complete design plans submitted to the state Department of Environmental Conservation. The mayor says the village didn’t know about these additional requirements when it applied for the funds.

Mayor Weaver said she was starting the income survey that evening, working with the same company that did an income survey in Valatie so that village could qualify for 0% interest loan from the state for sewer upgrades.

The Village of Kinderhook must have a 95% response on the survey in the business district, and 51% of the residents must be low to moderate income. The survey is just for people living in the buildings affected by the project, not business owners.

If the village does not meet the qualifications for income in that area, it will not be eligible for the grant, said Mayor Weaver. Also, once the project is complete, jobs must be created that meet state standards for low and moderate income workers or the state can demand that the village return some of the funding. And the businesses must retain those jobs for five years.

“I don’t want businesses to go out business if they can’t afford it,” she said of the sewer project. She said that if the village moves ahead and then funding is lost due to employment numbers that don’t meet state targets, local businesses will have to pay more for the sewer.

Mayor Weaver said the village has not yet contracted for a full design of the sewer project.

Right now the village is moving forward with a sidewalk link between Valatie and Kinderhook on Route 9. The two villages were granted money for that project from the federal government in 2006 and are awaiting funds from the state.

Work is planned to start on the sidewalk link in July, but the sewer hook-up would run under the new sidewalk. If the Kinderhook Board waits for the full design of the sewer project, the sidewalk work would be delayed until September, something Mayor Weaver does not anticipate happening. “We are continuing with the sidewalk link starting July 1,” said the mayor.

The Valatie Village Board is also moving ahead with its part of the sidewalk link project, having agreed to borrow about $50,000, the amount the state is expected to fund on the Valatie side of the project. And the Kinderhook board will also look into borrowing to pay for its part of the new sidewalks until the state money arrives.

As for the sewer project, Mayor Weaver has asked for an extension on the $177,000 grant. She has met with Congressman Chris Gibson’s office and is contacting state Senator Steve Saland and Assemblyman Steve McLaughlin.

To contact reporter Emilia Teasdale email .

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