CORNWALL — The town is applying for a state grant to help fund a $5 million waste management project.
First Selectman Gordon Ridgway said the grant, called the community project funding grant, gives municipalities increased federal funding for infrastructure projects including roads, bridges and sewer and public health projects.
“The West Cornwall wastewater management proposal would definitely qualify,” Ridgway said at a recent Board of Selectman meeting.
The town is applying to the grant through U.S. Rep. Jahana Hayes’ office.
“Hayes has been supportive of our application because we have been working on this for quite a few years and we’re on the verge of having the town vote on it,” Ridgway said after the meeting. “We’ve done the engineering work and we’ve gotten various approvals from town boards and commissions. If we can get increased federal funding, it would be an easier vote.”
Hayes is looking for proposals from 10 of her 41 municipalities to carry forward to the appropriation committee in Congress, which is chaired by U.S. Rep. Rosa DeLauro from the New Haven area, according to Ridgway.
The town is applying for a 75 percent grant for the project.
This would be a “substantial funding increase,” Ridgway said, since the project is already determined to be grant eligible by the United States Department of Agriculture, which said it would use between a 10 and 40 percent grant.
“If we can potentially get another million dollars in federal funding for this, I think it’s well worth waiting in order to try to do our due diligence to try to raise as much funding outside the local taxpayers,” he said. “This would be very much in the town’s interest to do so.”
The deadline to submit the grant is April 9.
“We’ll know fairly soon because the congresswoman has to submit her list of top ten to the appropriation committee by April 15,” he said.
Updating the town’s plumbing system would have a huge economic impact, according to Ridgway.
“It could transform West Cornwall because West Cornwall is probably one of the best preserved small villages in northwestern Connecticut,” he said.
According to Ridgway, West Cornwall’s assets include having the largest covered bridge in the state. The town has also been a destination for recreation on the river and on bicycles, he said. The Appalachian trail is also adjacent to the town.
However, the town has 19th-century plumbing, and there are buildings without any plumbing at all.
“Gradually, the village as shrunk as the health code has been put in place,” he said. “Unlike Kent or Salisbury or some other places where they put in a sewer 100 years ago, West Cornwall didn’t, so when people try to do things like open up a restaurant or expand a house, they can’t.”
He added the new wastewater system would enable more rental properties, which can potentially attract more people to the town.
There’s also a green benefit to the project, according to Ridgway.
“A lot of houses and buildings are very close to the river or close to a Millbrook, which goes into the river, so we’ll be doing our part to keep the river increasingly clean,” he said.
If the project goes forward, Ridgway said it would be “a big deal for a small town.”