Berlin Seeking $800K In Fed Water, Sewer Funds

BERLIN – Town officials
this week approved an application for state Community Development Block Grant
(CDBG) funding totaling $800,000 for the next phase of the town’s effort to expand
its estimated $9.4 million spray irrigation system expansion project.

Each year, the state
makes available millions of dollars in federal CDBG grants to towns and
counties across Maryland for a wide variety of uses including public works
projects. On Monday, the Mayor and Council approved an application for $800,000
in the next funding cycle, which, if approved, will be used to help fund the
expansion of the town’s wastewater capacity including the construction of a new
storage lagoon and spray irrigation site.

The maximum Berlin is
eligible for in any one year is $800,000, and town officials will be seeking
the entire amount again this year. Last year, Berlin was successful in
obtaining $800,000 in CDBG funds, which were used to repair and expand the existing
spray effluent storage lagoon along with several street repair projects, many
of which are now nearing completion.

Earlier this year,
Berlin obtained permission to expand its spray irrigation system in order to
increase its sewer capacity. Obtaining the CDBG grant in the amount of $800,000
in the current funding cycle would help continue progress on that effort. The
total cost of the sewer expansion project, including land acquisition and
construction of the new effluent force main, storage lagoon and spray
irrigation equipment, along with all of the associated engineering, legal and
administrative fees is expected to come in at around $9.5 million.

The wastewater expansion
project will be funded from a variety of federal, state and local sources with
the potential CDBG grant an important element in the equation. Town
Administrator Tony Carson recalled Berlin was in a similar situation this time
last year when the CDBG cycle came around and was optimistic for a similar
outcome this time around.

“We hope we are as
successful this year as we were last year,” he said. “We hope to secure the
CDBG grant and combine it with the various funding sources and come back to you
with a funding plan for the entire project.”

Berlin Mayor Gee
Williams also noted the similarities in the town’s most recent application for
the federal funds.

“Basically, we’re going
after the same funding sources as last time, only in different amounts,” he
said. “It’s like déjà vu all over again.”

The state will review
all applications submitted and make a determination on the allocation of the
CDBG funds based on a project’s worthiness or likelihood of being fully funded
and completed. Williams said the preliminary work done thus far on the
wastewater expansion project indicates the state is comfortable with allocating
the funds.

“Nothing is guaranteed,
but if this was considered a pie in the sky project, we would have had some
indication of that already,” he said.

Carson agreed the town’s
application for CDBG funding appears air tight, but warned acquiring the needed
funding could be difficult with so many applications submitted and a limited
amount of funding available.

“All indications are
positive, but we’re not going to take anything for granted,” he said.

Because of the
competitiveness of the process, Williams warned town staffers to make sure the
town’s application is solid and, perhaps more importantly, all deadlines are

To date, Berlin has
received $1.3 million in federal CDBG funds including over $700,000 received
last year for the spray effluent lagoon project. Of that figure, $219,000, or
37 percent, was used to extend water and sewer lines to the new lagoon site.