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USDA pulls plug on Town of Kirkland's sewer funding

By By CAROLINE GABLE and LAURA SOWALSKIE

KIRKLAND, N.Y. (WKTV) - Over the past year, Kirkland has spent half a million dollars planning for an upgrade to the sewer treatment plant in Clark Mills. The success of the project was dependent on $4 million in federal funds promised in a letter to the Town.

Unfortunately, the town is now bracing itself to not see a dime.

The reason behind the U.S. Department of Agriculture's decision lies in the population of Kirkland. The federal grant for waste and water treatment has always been offered to communities with populations under 10,000 people. In the past, the Department has provided funding to communities with populations slightly over the 10,000 mark.

Only recently has the rule been strictly enforced, which makes all the difference for towns such as Kirkland, which has a mere 10,138 - a mere 138 too many citizens.

"Some bureaucrat got some idea that this is a way to save money, but it's unfair," said Senator Charles Schumer. "You don't break your word, especially after the locality laid out its own money."

The Town of Kirkland has already invested $500,000 into preliminaries for this project, expecting to receive funding from the U.S.D.A. With the expected funds withdrawn, the burden will now fall upon the taxpayers.

"We're not going to be able to expand the plant and we're not going to be able to have any growth," said Town Supervisor Bob Meelan, explaining the effect of not getting the federal funds. "It's going to put us at a stalemate."

Ironically, while the Town of Kirkland applied for the grant, the only area that will be serviced by the upgraded plant is the Hamlet of Clark Mills - an area encompassing only about 2,200 people.

The plant is in dire need of an upgrade, as it has been cited by the Department of Environmental Conservation. Kirkland is hoping the U.S.D.A will reconsider its application, but if it does not, Senator Schumer said he's ready to write up new legislation.

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