Sheridan officials got another piece of bad news last week concerning their wastewater treatment project when they found out they missed the cut for an important state grant.
Sheridan failed to secure a Community Development Block Grant for their wastewater treatment project, which would have provided $450,000 in grant money to help build the new facility.
The news comes only a couple months after Gov. Brian Schweitzer line-item vetoed funding for Sheridan’s project when he signed the 2011 Legislature’s Treasure State Endowment Program bill.
The TSEP funding was slated to be $750,000. Schweitzer said he vetoed the funding for Sheridan’s project because House District 71 Rep. Bob Wagner voted against the bill during the session. Sheridan is in Wagner’s district.
Wagner claimed Schweitzer was just playing politics.
Between losing the TSEP funding and failing to secure the CDBG grant, Sheridan is now $1.3 million short for a project they must get done by next fall.
Sheridan Mayor Dean Derryberry is at a loss for why the CDBG grant was rejected.
“We’re trying to come up with a plan on how we can replace as much of that funding as possible,” Derryberry said.
Sheridan’s wastewater system woes began several years ago when it became apparent their current system wasn’t meeting the needs of the town. In 2008, the Montana Department of Environmental Quality issued an order demanding the town redo their facility and placing a moratorium on any new hookups to the system.
Since then, town officials have been trying to get funding and land for a new wastewater treatment plant. Now they’ve got a plan and secured a substantial amount of funding for the nearly $7 million project that includes a $2.5 million federal stimulus grant, but are now left scrambling.
“We were there to the dollar with those other two grants now we’re 1.3 million dollars short,” Derryberry said.
The rough truth of the matter is that Sheridan’s project just missed the cut, said Kelly Casillas, head of the Community Development program for the Montana Department of Commerce. She oversees the CDBG grant program.
“Those awards were just made last month at the end of the month and Sheridan was not one of the ones to receive the awards,” Casillas said.
The program prioritizes grants on several categories, but public health and safety along with meeting needs of low-income citizens are two categories that rank high, she said.
Sheridan’s project ranked well in those categories but not as high as some, Casillas said.
Additionally, the CDBG funding comes from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, which saw a 17 percent cut in funding this year.
All told, Montana Department of Commerce distributed $3 million in CDBG public facilities grants to seven projects around the state, she said. The projects included drinking water projects in Cascade County and Brady, a senior citizen center in Mineral County and a medical facility in Hot Springs.
These projects addressed needs by low-income citizens and public health and safety issues, Casillas said.
“Sheridan on the other hand has an issue that really related to the ability to add more people to their system,” she said. “That’s different than (needing) to find a new drinking water source.”
Out of 16 project applications submitted this year, Sheridan’s was ranked ninth, Casillas said.
She also denied that the decision on awarding grants was political and related at all to Schweitzer’s veto of the TSEP funding.
The next move for Sheridan officials is a bit unknown at this point, Derryberry said. He still hasn’t received an explanation from the Department of Commerce as to why Sheridan’s application failed.
“I have requested an explanation, a copy of the scoring for the projects and also a letter explaining why we didn’t get our money,” he said.
He is currently working with the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Rural Development program on securing more grant money from somewhere.
They’ve committed support for our project and they’ve committed to come up with more grant money to cut the deficit,” Derryberry said. “We can ask for the moon and hopefully we get some of the stars.”
The hope is figuring out some alternative funding sources and looking at ways to cut costs, Derryberry said.
“We’re doing everything humanly possible and then some to try and prevent that from happening,” he said.