05/01/09 — Stimulus funding request missed deadline

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Stimulus funding request missed deadline

By Steve Herring
Published in News on May 1, 2009 1:46 PM

MOUNT OLIVE -- The town of Mount Olive's sewer system rehabilitation project might have been as shovel ready as the town could make it, but those efforts still fell short of meeting requirements for inclusion in the first round of the dispersement of federal stimulus funding of just over $45.8 million.

Town officials had hoped the project would be included in the first round of funding that was announced just over a week ago.

They expressed disappointment when the project failed to make the cut. Now they will have to wait until July 1 to learn the application's fate.

Kim Colson of the state Construction Grants and Loans Section, which is administering the funds, said in an e-mail, "From our project list, it appears that Mount Olive was not a Category 1 project so it was not considered for this first round. It will be reviewed with the Category 2 applications and considered at that time.

"All round 2 applications must be in by June 3 with one caveat -- if the project needed an environmental document (for larger projects only), then the application had to have been submitted by April 3. We hope to have all the applications for round 2 reviewed by the first of July (approximately). Round 2 will have less money available and will include those in Category 2 as well as the Category 1 leftovers (i.e., a project not funded initially could still be funded)."

Applications for other Category 2 projects are due June 3. Award notifications letters for the second round of funding (Category 2 and remaining Category 1 projects) will be announced July 1.

According to information on the Construction Grants and Loans Section Web site, project permits had to have been issued by March 16. Mount Olive did not receive its permit from the N.C. Division of Water Quality until April 3.

Also, any funding by other funding agencies had to have been committed by the application deadline.

Town commissioners at their April 20 special session unanimously voted to accept $1.5 million in the form of a USDA grant/loan for the town's $2.4 million sewer improvement project.

Mount Olive is seeking $717,000 in federal stimulus dollars to replace or rehabilitate manholes, to replace or rehabilitate damaged or broken sewer lines, to repair or rehabilitate lift stations and to add generators where there currently are none.

Another funding requirement was that all easements be obtained prior to the application due date.

In an earlier interview, Town Manager Charles Brown said a "large chunk" of easement encroachments have been secured for the project.

The stimulus monies would be in the form of a grant/loan, too.

The USDA loan is repayable over 40 years at 3.75 percent. The stimulus loan is zero-percent interest.

However, it is possible that any stimulus funding amount could end up as a grant.

The state Clean Water Management Trust Fund board of directors last month passed two resolutions concerning projects that were left in limbo after Gov. Beverly Perdue shifted $100 million out of the fund to help balance the state budget.

The board first voted to give priority to unfunded 2008 projects, like Mount Olive's. It also agreed to pay the loan portion of any stimulus money.

The USDA loan will be secured by revenue bonds and up until construction begins, the town can decide not to proceed with the loan/grant.

The USDA funds would be used to construct a new force main near the old Burlington Industries plant on N.C. 55 West that will allow the town to move wastewater to the treatment plant without funneling it all through downtown lines -- a move that also will open up Mount Olive College for more development.

The USDA funds also will pay for two new lift stations and the relocation of another.