MONTPELIER — Two northern Windham County towns learned Wednesday they’re in line to receive millions in American Rescue Plan Act dollars for village water and wastewater projects.
Londonderry is getting just shy of $8 million for two wastewater facilities and Grafton is qualified for up to $4 million for a project the town has been eyeing for two decades.
“It’s very, very good news,” said Bill Kearns, former town administrator for Grafton.
“It’s great news,” agreed Shane O’Keefe, Londonderry’s town administrator. “The town has been working on this project to address the wastewater needs in both villages for years and years.”
While Londonderry is well on its way to going out to bid for two wastewater treatment plants, one in the north village and one in the south village, Grafton is just now settling on the idea its village needs both drinking water and a wastewater treatment plant, said Kearns.
The two towns are being funded from a pot of about $30 million in ARPA funds that were appropriated for the state’s village water and wastewater initiative.
For Gov. Phil Scott, investing in water, sewer and stormwater initiatives is key to Vermont’s economic growth.
“When you have the needed infrastructure, you can build more housing and open up more opportunities for businesses to grow,” stated Scott in a news release.
O’Keefe said there are businesses in Londonderry that would like to expand, but can’t do so in the villages because there’s no room for bigger septic systems or holding tanks.
“Our businesses can’t grow and are limited to what they can do. Both of our villages are along the West River in a flood hazard area. Historically, most of them have on-site septic systems of unknown age and quality. So we know that the villages, in order to grow, will need to have enhanced wastewater.”
“We can’t expand the uses of any of the buildings in the village the way it is right now,” agreed Kearns, who is currently training the new town administrator, Morgan Stevens. “If we’re going to expand businesses, if we want to have more than the two restaurants we have now in town, if we want to grow commercially, we’re going to have to resolve that problem.”
He said there have been a number of studies over the years about what Grafton should do. If it decides to move forward with water and septic, the town has two years to commit to the project and has until the end of 2026 to spend the funds, said Kearns.
Kearns said while it’s good to have the federal funds set aside for the town, $4 million is only half the projected cost.
Going forward, town residents will need to vote on a bond and whether all the town residents should pay for it, or if the town should create a utility district where only those hooked up to the system pay for the bond.
“What we’ve been kicking around is that maybe the town picks up a small percentage of the initial cost, maybe 10 percent, and the villages will pick up the other 90 percent,” he said. “We’ve been discussing in town is what town residents want to pay in general, if anything.”
Londonderry is going to have to come up with its own portion of the funding, said O’Keefe. It appears that’s less than $1 million, but it might still be a few months before that number is filled in. Town residents will also have to decide how to raise that money, but he said the system, when up and running, will be sustained through user fees and the costs won’t be shared by all residents in the town.
For now, the town is in the early engineering stage, said O’Keefe.
“And we have to find locations that would accommodate a wastewater system of a certain size.”
Other towns that qualified for money included Montgomery at $2.2 million, Greensboro at almost $4 million, Moretown at $3.3 million, West Burke at $3.9 million, Killington at $2.3 million, and South Hero at $1.4 million.