Grants Galore!

Grants Galore!
Photo by Giorgio Trovato / Unsplash

When Jacqueline Annabi took over as Town Supervisor in January 2022, she made it clear she wanted to make securing grants for the town a signature element of her administration. With Putnam Valley facing a daunting array of critical infrastructure needs, this was key to her strategy to limit the burden on taxpayers for that costly work. "We are well past 'want to get this done', to 'need to get this done'," she explained in a recent email exchange.

After getting recommendations from peers in nearby towns and seeking multiple bids, she chose Millennium Strategies, a grant consulting firm based in New Jersey, as her ally. Since then, with Millennium's assistance, the town has applied for more than 30 grants and received commitments for over $6 million, a considerable sum for a town this size.

So, curious minds want to know, what exactly are these funds for and when might we see the fruits of that labor?

The vast majority of that money can be traced to two grants. In December 2022, the town was awarded $2.8 million in Congressional funding to support a water treatment solution for the contaminated water at Town Hall and its neighboring buildings, as well as 15-25 homes nearby that the town has been supplying with bottled water. (The water supply was rendered unsafe several decades ago after being contaminated by the town's salt supply.) Unfortunately, that grant money has not yet materialized, with the result that no design or planning for that project has begun. Annabi says she checks in weekly with Congressman Mike Lawler but has been given no sense of when the funds might be released.

The second large grant, for $2.152 million from New York State's Department of Transportation, was announced last July to replace the Horton Hollow Bridge over Canopus Creek. Annabi says she is awaiting final plan approval from the state and expects the funds to arrive "very soon". Once that approval is given, next steps include surveying neighboring properties, obtaining easements and permits, and maintaining the approval process required by both the state's Department of Environmental Conservation and Department of Transportation. "Despite all this, we do hope to have Horton Hollow and all our bridges and culverts completed by yearend 2024," Annabi wrote.

Here are a number of the other grants the town has secured, along with their expected use:

*$600,000 from Congress' American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) which will be used to reduce the phosphorous and nitrogen sediment that is running from nearby roads into Lake Oscawana. Annabi says bids on that project are coming back shortly and the winner will be announced on February 7th. She expects the portion of the work that needs to be done near the lake to be completed by late March; the roadway drainage repairs will take longer

*$125,000 to ensure that town codes comply with the state's green initiatives; training for this program is underway

*$75,000 for two grants to reduce paperwork in the Building Department by obtaining and upgrading software programs and scanning technology

*$40,000 to measure greenhouse gas emissions emanating from Town Hall and other buildings on its campus. Although this grant was awarded in March of last year, no work has yet begun due to limitations on staff time at the Department of Environmental Conservation and Town Hall

*$10,000 to replace incandescent bulbs in town buildings with LED lights; this project is complete

*$10,000 to support the purchase of five laptops for the town board, reducing the use of paper

Annabi has also submitted new grant requests to state and federal agencies for $3.5 million in support of repairing the dam at Roaring Brook Lake, $2.8 million for repairing the Lake Peekskill dam, and $2.5 million to rehabilitate the Oregon Corners sewer pump station. She is also trying to identify grants that would help homeowners replace their aging septic systems with a minimal investment of say, 10%, of the total.

Lastly, Annabi notes that she expects to get reimbursed by FEMA for the $9 million in damage inflicted on town roads, bridges and core infrastructure during last July's terrible floods. She has also successfully secured $600,000 in county funding to winterize one of the town camp's buildings, which will enable it to be used year round.

Supervisor Annabi's efforts to attract major outside funding for critical town maintenance has required Town Hall to become something akin to a construction-management firm. The only problem is, Annabi doesn't currently have the full-time staff that might normally accompany such a business. The town engineer and town planner, whose skills are vital to the success of these projects, are both part-time consultants, for instance.

The contract with Millennium, which costs the town $39,000 a year, supports the research and writing of grant applications. But town staff still have to produce the extensive documentation required to obtain the funds and report on how the money is then spent. That means assembling all receipts, time sheets, GPS documentation, surveys, plans, easements, and so on. "Everything is a process. There is a lot involved in this kind of work," says Annabi. "We don't have a very large staff to do this... it's not easy."

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