US agriculture department should propose loan, grant for Wor. in 30 to 60 days
(Jan. 10, 2020) The sewer extension plan for the Lewis Road area may see movement in the next 30 to 60 days, assuming the federal Department of Agriculture comes up with a loan and a grant to help the county pay for the work as county officials expect.
The project would connect the community along that stretch between Sinepuxent and Eagle’s Landing to the Landings Wastewater Treatment Plan. County Commissioner Joseph Mitrecic reminded everyone that the county had marked the extension as a priority item four years ago.
Bob Mitchell, director of environmental programs, completed a summary and presented a report regarding the extension for commissioners during their Tuesday meeting. According to his report, the commissioners reviewed and approved a preliminary engineering report for the project in January 2018.
Later that month, the Department of Public Works submitted an application for capital project funding to the Maryland Water Quality Financing Administration. That, however, was denied in June 2018 on the basis the county’s ranking did not qualify for funding.
For another option, the environmental programs department sent an inquiry for a priority funding area exemption to the Maryland Department of the Environment in order to use funds from the Bay Restoration Fund. County staff are working with the state on this. According to Mitchell, those funds alone might not be enough to cover project costs.
He said that in March 2019, the county submitted an environmental report to the department of agriculture rural development program, but the review process has been hindered by staff issues.
“Notably, the head engineer position was not filled,” Mitchell said. “It sat up there for months and months and months. If they don’t have a person to review it, they can’t process our application.”
Since the position was filled in the fall, Mitchell believes the county can receive and secure an offer within the next couple months. He recommended to also “submit a parallel track for MDE water quality funding and review those costs in combination with the USDA offer, if needed.”
He said that the Maryland Department of Environment has changed the scoring system for rural counties applying for the Capital Project Funding program, which could result in Worcester County’s favor this time around. Even with that, Mitchell still advised considering funds from the Bay Restoration Fund if the combined funds from the department of agriculture and environment are not enough.
If the county proceeds with its first option from the engineering report, it will cost a total of $1.6 million to construct a gravity collection system and pump station.