MDE to fund design of Twin Cities treatment plant

Secretary
SECRETARY — Secretary Mayor Susan Dukes reported at the Sept. 6 commission meeting that she received official notice that the Maryland Department of the Environment (MDE) will fund 100 percent of the costs for the design phase of the Twin Cities (Secretary and East New Market) Wastewater Treatment Plant (TCWWTP). A delay in funding had halted the design but “Richard Parks of engineering design firm ARRO Consulting now has the notice to proceed,” said Ms. Dukes. Funds will be drawn down from previously allocated construction funds.

Mayor Dukes read a press release into the record regarding the TCWWTP replacement:

“We have received word from the State that the design phase of the TCWWTP replacement will be completely funded by the MDE. The funding will be drawn down from money already allocated from the State for the construction end of the project. The Town Councils of Secretary and East New Market, Mayor Caroline Cline, Twin Cities Commission Chair Marc Bramble and I would like to give special thanks to Sen. Addie Eckardt, Delegate Johnny Mautz, Jeannie Riccio and others from Gov. Hogan’s office and Secretary Ben Grumbles and Lynn Buhl from the MDE. Their help in sorting through the issues surrounding this project and getting it back on track was greatly appreciated. They all went above and beyond to help us move forward. The project should move smoothly from this point and hopefully there will be no further interference from any outside sources. We will remain vigilant and any issues that could impede the project will be addressed quickly.” The release was signed by Mayor Dukes.

The town has sought grants from several sources including the federally-funded Maryland Community Development Block Grant Program (CDBG) which is under Title I of the Housing and Community Development Act of 1974 and meets certain funding needs of municipalities with less than 50,000 in population.
The Maryland CDBG program is administered by the State Department of Housing and Community Development (DHCD). For special projects, like the Twin Cities treatment plant, DHCD awards funds to towns that meet a threshold of low and moderate income (LMI) residents. According to the CDBG policies manual, “. . . projects that benefit an entire town/city or a specific service area” must have an LMI population “that is 51 percent or greater” based on a recent HUD census.

The CDBG manual says, “To determine this information, applicants are to conduct an income survey of the residents of the service area using the Maryland CDBG Low and Moderate Income Survey Guide.” However, the manual stated in 2015 that “Surveys of an entire town or city are not allowed at this time.” The Twin Cities combined census was less than the requisite 51 percent. A 2010 census showed both towns in the 40th percentile rather than the 50th percentile.

Last year, town officials were told they were not allowed to canvas the two towns to determine the actual LMI. However, a recent conversation with Gordon Outlaw, director of the Office of Fair Practices for CDBG, has led to a potential waiver that will allow the income surveys. More information on requirements and procedures is forthcoming and the mayor is optimistic that the surveys can be conducted in the near future.

Susan Bautz is a freelance writer for the Dorchester Banner.

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