Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Lesson Learned, Grants Pursued

If the folks from TGW Consultants and Council president Don Moore learned anything from the controversial experience of the mishandled sewer separation project, it seems to be that the Council should pass a resolution declaring a project a Type II action under SEQRA before the application seeking grant money to fund it is even submitted. That's what happened last night with four projects the City is hoping to fund with grant money. First, a resolution was presented authorizing the submission of the grant application; then, a resolution was presented declaring the project a Type II action, requiring no environmental review.

First was an application to the Green Innovation Grant Program to install fifteen "storm water treatment units" on Union Street, from East Court Street to just above Seventh Street. The units, installed in the ground along the outer edge of the sidewalk, "will be filled with soil media and a small tree or shrub will be planted in the media." The grant summary explains: "[T]he intent of the unit is to filter storm water through the soil media/root zone and then allow for a portion of the storm water to be infiltrated into the existing soil and excess water to be conveyed out of the structure via the elevated underdrain . . . [to] improve quality and reduce flows entering the combined sewer system" As DPW superintendent Rob Perry declared, the project "hits all of the bells and whistles."

The resolution to submit the application passed unanimously. The resolution to declare it a Type II action under SEQRA also passed, but Alderman John Friedman (Third Ward) abstained from voting, because, he explained, he didn't have enough information.

Next was the City's 2015 CDBG application for $600,000 to replace the old 4-inch mains that carry pure, clean water from the water treatment plant with new 8-inch mains, on State Street from Fourth to Third and on Third Street from State to Columbia. No mention was made last night of the "streetscape enhancements" that may be part of this grant. The resolution to submit the grant application and the resolution to declare the project a Type II action both passed unanimously.

Then came the resolution to submit the grant seeking $200,000 "to facilitate accessibility and make entrance improvements to Promenade Hill Park." Alderman Tiffany Garriga (Second Ward), apparently unaware that a meeting to present the conceptual plan for the project had been scheduled for Tuesday, July 28, said she wanted another meeting about the plan because "there weren't very many people at the first meeting" (the room was filled), her constituents "wanted input for their children," and she wanted "more input from other people who actually utilize the park."

Alderman Rick Rector (First Ward) asked if the final design would be presented to the Historic Preservation Commission. There was no clear answer. Rector requested that "counsel advise if it goes to HPC." Moore said that it was his "general sense" that City projects to not go before the HPC (in other words, that City projects were exempt from the City's preservation ordinance), overlooking the fact that the design for the never constructed senior center and the design for the police and court building were both submitted for review by the HPC. Addressing the question, city attorney Carl Whitbeck commented, "This is not a building. Whether the statute applies or not, I can't say."

The Council passed the resolution to submit the application, without seeing the conceptual design that will accompany it, and also passed the resolution to declare the project a Type II action.

The final resolutions having to do with grant applications were for a "Water Quality Improvement Project." The pump station on Power Avenue is to be upgraded. The resolution to submit the application and to declare the project a Type II action were both passed unanimously by the Council.

Along with approving the submission of grant applications, the resolutions passed by Common Council also commit the City to its match if the grant is awarded. In the case of the Green Innovation Grant, the match is 10 percent of $276,000; in the case of the grant for Promenade Hill, the match is 25 percent of $200,000; for the Water Quality Improvement grant, the match is 15 percent of $275,000. There is no required match for the CDBG. Alderman Nick Haddad (First Ward), who chairs the Finance Committee, announced that his committee was forming a subcommittee to keep track of all these grant matching commitments, which often are not budgeted for and end up coming out of the fund balance. In the case of these four grants, the City's commitment in matches adds up to $123,850.


  1. You'd think that this was 1950. Next, we'll see a resolution to put the oil tanks back on the waterfront; Type II, of course.