Esslie-Frenia Law June 2023 Leaderboard

Journey starts with single grant

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Ancram finds a patient man to pursue public funds

ANCRAM—“There are hundreds and hundreds of grant opportunities out there,” according to Ancram Supervisor Art Bassin.

Now this town aims to take advantage of them like other towns in the county have. To that end, Supervisor Bassin recently appointed Gerry Fultz the town’s grant coordinator.

Mr. Bassin said by phone this week he made the appointment because the town needed someone to focus on available grants and match them to the town’s needs and aspirations.

As Mr. Bassin describes him, Mr. Fultz is “a computer guy” and someone with “the capacity and interest to scout out” grants. The supervisor believes a background in grant writing is less important at this stage than “curiosity” about how grants are controlled and “the patience to talk to people at all levels.”

A consultant specializing in data gathering and analysis for the two largest providers in the vision correction industry, Mr. Fultz said by phone, “the grant utilization process is a journey, it takes time and persistence. It’s new to Ancram and people have a lot of questions.”

Hillsdale has used grants in the installation of its municipal septic system and Kinderhook and Chatham have both made use of Transportation Alternatives Program (TAP) grants, he said.

Mr. Fultz, who volunteers for the new post, has already begun his Ancram journey, and he attended the April 17 Town Board meeting to report on his scouting activities so far.

Despite work done last year by the county to improve sight lines looking south, one of the town’s main issues continues to be the hamlet intersection of State Route 82 and County Route 7–not only making it safer but dealing with deteriorating buildings nearby and the infrastructure to support those buildings, Mr. Bassin said by phone.

The hamlet cannot meet modern septic standards, Mr. Fultz said in his report, wondering aloud, “What is a better way to go?” The answer could be an individual solution for each property or a municipal system, which would allow empty buildings to be occupied and occupied buildings to add a bedroom.

The Town Board has approved the application for a $24,500 state Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) grant for an engineering study “to explore the possibility of and alternatives around a municipal sewer system,” Mr. Fultz wrote in an email. The engineering study is required before the town could request grants to build a sewer system. The town will find out whether it will get the grant later this year.

He says if the town gets a grant for the engineering study the next step would be public discussion about whether there’s a sewer system that fits the town’s needs and that could lead to a search for more grant funds to build a system. The DEC grant requires a 20% match, which could be met with “in kind” services or time spent on the project.

Water was the next topic with Mr. Fultz noting that residences along County 7 west of the Roe Jan Kill in the hamlet are built on slate foundations. The water wells associated with these homes have some of the lowest yields in Columbia County, as documented in a New York Rural Water Association Study conducted in 2008. A municipal water system is also an idea that might be possible through grants. Such a project would require “going through a lot of hurdles,” Mr. Fultz said, but the Town Hall sits on a large aquifer. which might help.

“We have to make sure people want it” and that the cost for people who opt in would not exceed $50/month, he said, noting no grant has been written for water and “We have to see what our mandate is.”

Exploring a municipal water system would also involve an engineering study funded by a DEC grant. “Grants associated with sewer and water generally cover about 80% of costs up to an amount of $700,000,” but the grants are “highly competitive, he said.

Another improvement that might benefit the hamlet is sidewalks. Currently the 82/7 intersection is treacherous for pedestrians and sidewalks would not only make walking safer, but could also improve sight lines and the turning radius.

Mr. Fultz has found a Transportation Alternatives Program (TAP) grant that may make it possible to install parking at Blass Memorial Field, create walkways/bike paths to Town Hall, the post office, past the Ancram Hotel to the stone bridge and along the west side of the kill emerging at Town Hall. He said such paths would make the town “more connected and a safer place” and people wouldn’t have to drive.

The TAP “is funded by the Federal Highway System and administered by the New York DOT,” he said.

Noting that the ideas he presented at the Town Board meeting were strictly preliminary and subject to thorough town wide discussion, Mr. Fultz wrote that the town may ultimately decide that the TPA grant is not the best fit for its needs.

The minimum amount of a TPA grant is $250,000 and the maximum amount is $2 million. A 20% match is required.

Ancram Hotel owner Donna Hoyt said at the meeting that the creation of sidewalks in the hamlet would require the seizing of property by eminent domain and that hers was the “only specific property that would suffer from that.”

She said the idea of installing sidewalks was “putting the cart before the horse” and that the town should actually have buildings that people want to walk to first. She said there is “no interest in a business district in the center of town” because of its awkward position and that the business district should be relocated to the small houses along County Route 7, where it is more practical.

Town resident Sue Bassin said Mrs. Hoyt seems to have created “a conundrum” by saying she wants more businesses to come to the hamlet but opposing the idea of looking at hamlet issues with an engineer. “These are all the kinds of things businesses need to know about,” said Mrs. Bassin.

At least three grant opportunities come across his desk weekly, said Mr. Bassin, who now funnels them all to Mr. Fultz for exploration.

To contact Diane Valden email dvalden@columbiapaper.com.

 

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