Pascoag Utility District awarded $2.4M for water projects

Funds will be used to upgrade water service to 1,000 homes

By JOSEPH FITZGERALD jfitzgerald@woonsocketcall.com

 

BURRILLVILLE – The Pascoag Utility District was awarded loans and grants totaling more than $2.4 million from the United States Department of Agriculture Rural Development to rehabilitate its aging water system.

The funding, which was awarded Friday – Earth Day – by Scott J. Soares, USDA Rural Development State Director for Southern New England, will be used to clean and line nearly 30,000 linear feet of cast iron water main pipeline providing service to more than 1,000 homes.

“We learn in grade school that the Earth is comprised of more than 75 percent water so it’s only fitting that on Earth Day we celebrate the Pascoag Utility District’s great effort to improve the water quality’” said Soares said.

“This project went through (the application process) very fast and the added attention of the USDA staff was much appreciated,” said Al Palmisciano, chairman of the Pascoag Utility District’s Board of Utility Commissioners. “We are a poor community and could never have hoped to get into a project like this without the help of USDA and it a greatly appreciated.”

Specifically, Pascoag Utility District was awarded a $480,000 Water and Waste Water Program grant and received a Water and Waste Water Program loan of $1.92 Million to rehabilitate their aging water system so that residents can have access to higher quality water. The funding will be used to clean and line nearly 30,000 linear feet of cast iron water main pipeline providing service to more than 1,000 homes. “Commercial lenders were not a viable option for us,” said Michael Kirkwood, general manager and CEO of the Pascoag Utility District. “The low interest rate, 40 year repayment term and federal grant made it doable without having to greatly increase utility costs.”

The Pascoag project was also the first project in Southern New England to be submitted and approved through the new RD Apply web application. RD Apply is designed to save time in the application process, better serve the rural communities applying for loans and grants and to reduce the paper consumption associated with older application processes.

“I want to extend a thank you to Senator Whitehouse and his staff for turning us on to the USDA programs and RD Apply,” said Kirkwood. “We couldn’t have done this without their support.”

This project was recognized as part of USDA’s National Earth Day celebration and recognition of projects that will improve rural water quality and safety in 33 states across the country. USDA is investing $183 million in 60 water and wastewater infrastructure projects through Rural Development’s Water and Environmental Program (WEP).

USDA Rural Development has invested $11 billion since 2009 to start or expand 103,000 rural businesses; help 1.1 million rural residents buy homes; fund nearly 7,000 community facilities such as schools, public safety and cialis health care facilities; finance 180,000 miles of electric transmission and distribution lines; and help bring high-speed Internet access to nearly 6 million rural residents and businesses.

Through a suite of community, business and housing programs, USDA Rural Development is committed to helping improve the economy and quality of life in rural America. Rural Development offers loans, grants and loan guarantees that support essential services associated with single and multi-family housing, economic development, health care, first responder services and equipment, water, as well as electric and communications infrastructure.

The project’s phase one area is bounded by Pascoag Main Street, North Street, Grove Street, Centennial Street, Laurel Hill, Church Street, and Broad Street, and includes the streets within that area.

The Pascoag Utility District’s Electric Department is Rhode Island’s only not-for-profit public power utility serving approximately 5,000 customers in the villages of Harrisville and Pascoag. The district, incorporated by a special act of the Rhode Island General Assembly, is a quasi-municipal utility that provides electricity and water on a “not for profit” basis. Pascoag Electric is regulated by the Rhode Island Public Utilities Commission. The district provides water to 1,200 water customers in Pascoag.

Kirkwood and Board of Utility Commissioners Chairman Al Palmisciano say the district’s long-term plan is to continue to upgrade the water distribution system, which began in 2013 when the district completely refurbished water storage tanks, installed an electronic data and control system that helps monitor system conditions, and replaced many of the system’s oldest valves and hydrants.

“Pascoag Utility District is extremely appreciative of the responsive effort of USDA Rural Development, who is funding this project,” Kirkwood added. “If not for their ability to help fund small water companies like Pascoag’s with a combination of low-cost long term loans and grants, Pascoag would not have been able to move forward with this critical water distribution system improvement project.”

Follow Joseph Fitzgerald on Twitter at @jofitz7