Jackson takes swing at funding process

ESSEX Essex Supervisor Ronald Jackson is hoping a Good Witch will step in and wave a magic wand to send the hamlets sewer project home with some funding. Jackson recently wrote a satirical account of Essex officials attempts to navigate the federal grant process, comparing the journey the towns been on trying to secure funding to a trip through the fantasy land of Oz. The essay was sent to local and national newspapers, Sen. Hillary Clinton, Sen. Charles Schumer, Congressman John McHugh, and other government officials in an attempt to raise awareness of the hamlets sewer issues. Jackson was highly critical of the false hope offered by the federal grant process. I really don't think many people understand that [State Tribal Assistance Grants] are a dead-end process - it's a false hope that's even more disappointing, said Jackson. Last year, Sen. Hillary Clintons office announced the project had been approved through State Tribal Assistance Grant (STAG) funding. However, when it came to having the money appropriated, there was no funding mechanism. When you get to that point, you can sit there or you can come out swinging in whatever manner you can, said Jackson. Jackson said it took him a month to sort out where the towns grant had gone. The grant was part of the Water Resources Development Act (WRDA), overseen by the Army Corps of Engineers. The act hasnt been reauthorized since 2000. The only way you can get an approved grant to get a funded grant is through a senate earmark - our opportunity for this year has come and gone, and theres no funding for this fiscal year, said Jackson. The hamlet of Essex is the only community on Lake Champlain that doesnt have a sewer system. Work on creating a system has been in process for more than 50 years. Currently, the hamlet has a $1 million grant from past Gov. George Pataki. Jackson said the money was being used to design the collection system, but without further funding the project would go on hold. The sewer system, currently estimated to cost $7.2 million, would serve 100 houses. Jackson said for every year the project continues waiting, costs would increase by $500,000. If we don't get the grant by 2009, it will no longer be enough, said Jackson. Jackson said if funding was secured in 2009, the project could break ground in 2010. I'm using every contact I can to put pressure on the Clinton camp to move up higher on the list, said Jackson. Clinton representatives said WRDA authorization was an important first step in achieving federal funding. Clintons deputy press secretary, Eric Bederman, stated the senator remained committed to seeing the project funded. The WRDA authorization is the first critical step in this process, and Sen. Clinton is committed to continuing to work with her colleagues in Congress and with the areas local officials to ensure that the hamlet of Essex receives funding for this important project in future appropriations bills, said Bederman. Bederman said Clinton was proud of her role in helping override the president's veto of the Water Resources Development Act to authorize millions in federal funding for project. Jackson said although he was frustrated, he hoped grant funding would eventually materialize. Maybe therell be a Glinda and I'll have to rewrite my story, said Jackson.

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