As Waitsfield continues its work engineering, permitting, and financing a municiple wastewater system for its village areas, the town team working on the project is working with the Vermont Department of Environmental Conservation on how to improve the town’s ranking in a state database of municipal projects seeking state wastewater programming from ARPA funds.
Town administrator Annie Decker-Dell’Isola updated the select board at an August 14 meeting and in an interview this week, she explained how the state’s ranking criteria works and how, despite working closely with DEC last year and earlier this year, the town’s ranking came in lower than expected.
Decker-Dell’Isola said that the state’s village wastewater funding program is different from the state Clean Water Revolving State Fund which the town has used and continues to use to fund planning and engineering for the project. The village wastewater funding program allocates ARPA funds for wastewater projects to towns based on specific ranking criteria and if those projects don’t progress in a timely fashion, the funds are reallocated to other towns.
“So, we’re on the list for receiving reallocated state ARPA funds as they become available and the higher we rank the higher we are in line for receiving the funds. Our score of 66 makes us fourth or fifth in line for the funding. Initially, after reviewing our application with DEC staff, our understanding was that our ranking was in the 80s which would have made us first or second in line for funding,” she explained.
“To get to the front of the line, we worked with DEC staff on preparing our application and met with them, reviewing it and thought we were all on the same page. We were confident that we’d rank high. We’re not seeking clarification on areas where we didn’t rank as high as we expected. We’re advocating for higher ranking. We want to be at the front of that line,” Decker-Dell’Isola added.
One of the criteria used in ranking municipal projects is an intended use plan that establishes affordability criteria. Towns that meet certain affordability criteria are eligible for subsidy amounts that are based on area median income, which Decker-Dell’Isola said for Waitsfield, as a whole town, was fairly high, about $70,000. The state’s threshold for affordability is in the $30,000s for median income.
Those figures come from the U.S. Census and Decker-Dell’Isola said that there is a census data set that looks at median household income for the Waitsfield and Irasville Village areas which shows income thresholds much more in line with the state’s threshold.
“We’re making the case that this other data set, the CDP, is also census data and it applies to the exact service area for our municipal wastewater system,” she added.
“We’ve been asking these questions for several months and are still waiting for answers. We’ve asked several times and want them to help us understand if we’re on the right track, Decker-Dell’Isola noted.