CLARKSBURG, Va. (WV News) – A Harrison County wastewater treatment project suspended as sponsors secure new funding deals may already be underway if the county falls under a different section of the law federal government on the development of water resources.
In November 2018, after about 20 years of planning, the West Fork Site Community Cooperative secured funding for 75% of the cost of a septic tank effluent pump sewer system to serve over 300 homes. , three churches and the State Highway Division building to the communities of Arlington, Glen Falls, Gore and Dawmont through the US Army Corps of Engineers.
In May 2019, the co-op secured the 25% match through debt forgiveness and low-interest loans through the West Virginia Infrastructure and Jobs Development Council.
The project would cost $ 7.5 million.
The completed system would not only help clean up serviced communities and the West Fork River by preventing untreated effluent from flowing from homes into waterways, but it would also be cheaper for residents of serviced communities than it would be. connect to a centralized sewage system, according to West Fork Co-op board member Paul Hamrick.
Recently, however, co-op board members learned that the match should be provided in advance, rather than paid for as the job is completed. State funds, however, can only be paid when the work is completed and invoiced, according to Hamrick.
Therefore, the cooperative is now considering short-term private financing options that are expected to add $ 45,000 to $ 50,000 to the overall cost of the project, he said.
The reason is enshrined in federal law.
The Water Resources Development Act is a two-year bill originally passed by Congress in 1986 to fund water resources infrastructure projects.
Sections 340 of the bill, covering the southern counties of the 3rd Congressional District of West Virginia, and Section 571, covering the central counties of the 2nd Congressional District of West Virginia, were created in bills of Reauthorization Acts passed in 1992 and 1999, respectively, to authorize resources for environmental infrastructure in these parts of the state through the Army Corps of Engineers.
The chapters are specific to these districts as they were created at the request of the US representatives of each district at the time. For example, Senator Shelley Moore Capito, then House Representative for the 3rd Congressional District of West Virginia, served on the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee and secured Section 571 of the Reauthorization Bill. .
West Virginia’s 1st Congressional District was not included until 2007, when it was one of some 300 regional sub-authorizations included in Section 219.
Although section 219 provides resources for environmental infrastructure, it is not structured the same way as other sections, such as sections 340 and 571.
According to James Shibata, chief of the project management section of the US Army Corps of Engineers, the majority of environmental infrastructure programs under the Water Resources Development Act allow project developers to retain services. from an engineering company to design and subcontract construction, with the Army Corps of Engineers providing oversight to ensure the project meets federal funding requirements.
Rather than paying the grant money up front to the sponsor, the sponsor pays the contractor and is then reimbursed by the Army Corps of Engineers up to 75% of the cost of the project.
Under Section 219, however, instead of the sponsor getting an engineering company, the Corps of Engineers is responsible for advertising for the engineering company or contractor and must pay the contractor to the advance.
“It appears that the intention of Congress, at the time of enactment, was not to create more work for USACE engineers, but to provide opportunities for local engineering firms and construction contractors. Therefore, USACE is not authorized to terminate projects. USACE must advertise the engineering company or construction contractor and is required by law to fully fund a contract at time of award. USACE only receives 75% of the funds, which are earmarked by Congress, and therefore needs the 25% funding from the sponsor to comply with the law and award the contract, ”said Shibata.
Now, West Fork Co-op members are looking for 25% match funding options.
According to Hamrick, Harrison County officials informed him that the county did not have the $ 793,000 in its coffers to offer an initial loan on the first phase of the project, to be repaid with state funds as it progresses. and as the project progresses. A county official also indicated that American Rescue Plan Act funds cannot be used as a match for other federal funds.
A spokesperson for Sen. Joe Manchin, DW.Va., did not address the Wastewater Development Resource Act, but said the senator supports the West Fork Co-op project.
“Senator Manchin has worked with the West Fork Co-op on this project over the past year and is proud to support their efforts to bring safe, clean water to more West Virginia people. Earlier this year, with the support of Senator Manchin, the West Fork Co-op was granted a waiver to serve as a non-federal sponsor for the project. Senator Manchin also drafted the provision of the US bailout that allowed all state and local fiscal adjustment funds, including $ 1.3 billion for the state of West Virginia and $ 13.4 million for Harrison County, to be eligible for water and sanitation infrastructure projects. His office continues to work with local, state and federal stakeholders to move this project forward, ”the spokesperson said.
A spokesperson for Capito, RW.Va., said the senator has worked to secure funding for infrastructure in the state through the three applicable sections of the Water Resources Development Act.
“As a leading member of the [Environment and Public Works] Committee, Senator Capito will continue to prioritize environmental infrastructure resources for our state in the next WRDA bill to be submitted to the Senate next year, ”the spokesperson wrote.
Meanwhile, West Fork Co-op board members approached two private banks with the goal of securing a short-term loan to pay the initial cost. First, however, the co-op will need to apply for additional funds from the West Virginia Infrastructure and Jobs Development Council to cover the additional financing costs associated with any loan the co-op may receive, Hamrick said.
That board then meets on September 1, but the co-op members couldn’t meet the deadline to get on the agenda, according to Hamrick.
This has been a frustrating setback for the members of the co-ops.
“We’re upset in some ways because we still don’t understand why Section 219 requires this due diligence that wouldn’t be necessary if we were in Jane Lew or in Logan County,” Hamrick said.
It was also frustrating for residents of the four communities that would be served, some of whom repaired individual septic systems with temporary dressings pending a solution to their community’s sewer problems, he said.
Editor-in-Chief JoAnn Snoderly can be reached at 304-626-1445, by email at email@example.com or on Twitter at @JoAnnSnoderly.