Derry calls for restoration of environmental aid grants
"We have been approved for many of these, however, the program has not been funded for many, many years," said town administrator John Anderson.
Derry has taken advantage of the environmental state aid funds since the 1950s, according to Tom Carrier, deputy public works director.
"The town relied significantly on funds from that program to expand its treatment facility as well as the collection system," said Carrier.
Most recently, the state pre-approved grant funding to help pay for a $6 million effluent force main project.
"The project was on the state priority list and we were pre-approved for our grant since 2006," said Carrier. "We had completed the project and complied with all state regulations to remain eligible for the grant. We submitted our grant in 2009, to which the state replied - sorry, we have no money."
To date, Carrier said there are 124 similar projects to which the state has promised funding and not funded.
A number of communities and environmental organizations have pushed to have the funding restored in the governor's budget. Specifically, Carrier said a house bill was introduced to restore funding for the first two years the funding stopped for the program in 2008 and 2009.
"The state did make promises to many communities, and as of the fiscal year 2014 budget, the state will have owed (Derry) just under $1 million," said Carrier. "Annually, it's another $66,000 per year the state would owe us until the bonds for this project are paid off."
Even though the environmental aid grants have not been funded for years, Carrier said the state continues to give preliminary approval for projects, including the Route 28 water and sewer project in Derry.
Town Councilor Brian Chirichiello said he appreciates the push for the environmental state aid funding, but wondered where the money would come from.
"The governor has told department heads to cut back 3 percent from last year's budget, so I'm just trying to figure out where the revenue would be coming from," he said.
Anderson said Derry and other communities are trying to get the governor and Legislature to pay attention to a program they created.
"But everyone realizes that if it is not in the governor's budget, the chances of seeing (the funding) are slim to none," said Anderson.