DUFRESNE GROUP PROVIDES FUNDING ASSISTANCE FOR $23,700,000 IN INFRASTRUCTURE IMPROVEMENTS IN ST JOHNSBURY
Working closely with officials from Rural Development and the State of Vermont Water Supply Division, Dufresne Group (DG) secured $23,700,000 in funding for substantial improvements to the roadway and utility systems in St. Johnsbury. In 2007, DG completed planning activities that identified required water system improvements. Various funding scenarios were evaluated to determine the best funding approach that provided the most value for St Johnsbury customers. After consideration of various funding alternatives, DG recommended working with Rural Development officials through their loan/grant program. A phased approach was identified based on Rural Development’s funding levels. Initially, a $5,600,000 water project at 60% grants was developed to replace many of St. Johnsbury’s aging painted steel water tanks. In addition booster pump stations were included to increase the pressure in low pressure areas and about 7,000 feet of source transmission main was refurbished using cleaning and cement lining techniques. Finally about two miles of water main was slip lined with polyethylene pipe for use as a force main to transport waste process water and alum residuals from the Water Treatment Facility to the wastewater collection system. This slip lined pipe allowed St. Johnsbury to eliminate use of their two high maintenance alum lagoons. A second local vote was held in March of 2009 for a $3,100,000 which leveraged 75% RD grant funds for about four thousand feet of water main improvements and replacement of the Airport Hill Water tank. This was the first project in Vermont using 75% grant funds under the RD American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.
In addition to water system needs, St Johnsbury requires significant wastewater collection system improvements to separate combined sewers and eliminate combined sewer overflows (CSO’s). Dufresne Group identified a substantial project area that required both water and sewer improvements and recommended an approach to complete water, sanitary sewer, and storm sewer in the same area. Local officials also expressed their desire to complete sidewalk, curb and roadway reconstruction at the same time. Unfortunately this type of infrastructure improvement project is not readily funded by any agency. Funding sources that provide funds for water projects do not fund sewer projects. Agencies that provide grants and low interest loans for water, sewer, and storm water improvements do not normally fund street, sidewalk, or curb reconstruction. VTrans does not provide any funding for secondary street improvements. After researching alternative programs and evaluating potential grant percentages, it appeared that ARRA funding disbursed through the Water Supply Division and/or the Facilities Engineering Division would not provide sufficient funding to hold customer rates to acceptable levels. As such, Dufresne Group completed a State and Tribal Assistance Grant (STAG) application which enlisted the support of Vermont’s senatorial and congressional offices and these officials, working with Mike Welch, St. Johnsbury’s Town Manager were successful in obtaining 70.2% grant funding for a $15,000,000 project to complete these improvements.