ANCRAM—Thanks…but no thanks.
That’s what the Town Board will tell the state Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) about a grant the town was awarded but now wants to give back.
After initially being turned down by the DEC in 2014 for a grant to perform an engineering study for a municipal sewer in the Ancram hamlet, the town’s Grant Coordinator Gerry Fultz reapplied. This year on his second try, Mr. Fultz won a $36,000 grant, which includes $6,000 in matching funds that the town would have to provide either in kind or cash.
The study would be a precursor to another grant process to apply for money to install a system.
At the April 16 Town Board meeting, Mr. Fultz reported the news that the grant to fund the study had been approved and in his next sentence said, “I’ll cut to the chase, I recommend we decline this grant.”
Mr. Fultz said he was not recommending walking away from the problem, but noted the grant would not “take us down a very efficient road” to a solution.
In the interim between losing the first grant and winning the second grant, the town did not stop working on the problem, which is, grant or no grant, how to deal with the immediate need for working septic systems in three hamlet structures.
The town consulted with the county Department of Health, its engineer came to eyeball the situation and other engineers provided input as well, said Mr. Fultz. The solution they came up with for use in at least some instances is individual, pre-packaged wastewater treatment systems.
Potentially 15 to 20 lots or structures in the hamlet might be impacted by the lack of a working septic system in the future, but right now almost all of them have working septic systems and wells, he said.
Mr. Fultz suggested that the best way to deal with system failures is to look at each problem individually and tap into the network of resources the town has already established.
Resident Ann Rader told the board she believed the town should accept the grant and go forward with the study even if it later turned out that residents were not interested in hooking up to a municipal sewer system. But to have the grant and turn it down was not a good idea, she said.
Ancram Preservation Group (APG) board member Kit White said whatever the town decided to do would not impact the Stiehle House or Simons General Store, both historic hamlet structures owned by the preservation group, because the APG was going to move ahead with individual systems for each structure.
Mr. White told the board to consider the future of the hamlet and in order for it to become a thriving commercial and residential area, “something will have to be in place to make it work.
“It seems crazy not to take the grant and see what the engineering study says.” The study would not be invasive, he noted. The town “will not know if the next step is possible without the study. If the hamlet is ever to work again there is going to have to be some incentive, some system in place,” Mr. White said.
Resident and Ancram Hotel owner Donna Hoyt said the topography of the hamlet does not allow any area for parking, moving around or growing.
Supervisor Art Bassin said the study would survey where a pipes would go to allow people to hook up and would not involve going to anyone’s house. The pipes would be a means to move effluent into the Roe Jan Kill, if approved by the DEC and other official entities.
“Are we assured that DEC will be OK with this plan 25 years down the road?” Councilman Chris Thomas asked.
“You are doing a study that could be outdated in a year,” noted Mrs. Hoyt.
Councilman Hugh Clark said the “study would find out what we already know” in relation to current technology. “We should turn back the grant to someone who has a real need,” he said.
The study “sounds to me like we something we ought to do. It won’t cost the town that much, maybe $3,000 to have something we can use,” said Councilwoman Madeleine Israel.
When the discussion concluded, Councilmen Clark, Jim Miller, Thomas and Supervisor Bassin voted in favor of not accepting the grant. Councilwoman Israel was opposed.
A call to DEC to find out about the frequency of grant givebacks and whether refusal to accept an awarded grant impacts a town’s future chances of receiving another grant was not returned by press time.
The Town Board conducts a special meeting Saturday, May 2 at 9 a.m. to open and review lawn and pool maintenance bids. The two bids previously received for the services were rejected at the board’s April meeting. New public notices seeking these services will be published, this time giving “preference” to those who submit bids on both contracts either separately or in combination.
To contact Diane Valden email