Northfield News: Peter Welch Comes to Williamstown
By Bill Croney
Williamstown -- The Town of Williamstown held a double celebration Last Friday at the Public Service Building. The first reason for the celebration was to celebrate Earth Day and the second reason was to formally announce the large grant and low interest loan to upgrade the town’s 47 year-old wastewater system.
There were some high- powered dignitaries on hand in the equipment bay of the new fire station for the ceremony. Vermont Congressman Peter Welch was the “keynote” speaker and he was joined by Lisa Mensah, Undersecretary of USDA Rural Development, and Ted Brady, State Director if Rural Development as the main speakers.
Also briefly speaking were Chris Saunders, representing Senator Leahy, Haley Pero, representing Senator Sanders, Vicky Drew, State Conservationist from the Natural Resources Conservation service, and Alyssa Schuren, the Commisioner for the Department of Environmental Conservation.
Their brief speeches echoed each other in the importance of water quality and conservation.
They also congratulated Williamstown on being “ahead of the curve” on water quality issues and for being “forward thinking” on the Grant process.
Town Manager Jackie Higgins was the last speaker and she announced the $2,161,000 grant and loan combination from USDA ($884,000 of the amount is the loan) to upgrade the town’s wastewater treatment plant. These will be the first upgrades to the system since it was built 47 years ago. One of the main benefits of the upgrade will be an 84% decrease in phosphorus output annually that will improve water quality locally and ultimately benefit Lake Champlain.
Following the news conference and celebrations at the fire station a large group of the dignitaries and a group from Vermont’s ECO AmericaCorps Program went out to Bernior road to remove old tires from a streambed and clean up the stream. The trip was more than symbolic - they pulled over 50 old and discarded tires out of the stream.
USDA says that through it’s Rural Development Mission it has invested 107.8 million dollars to bring improved water and waste water services to over 84,372 Vermont residents. USDA also said that Williamstown has taken advantage of it’s historically low interest rates to bring cost effective improvements to it’s water system which will benefit 260 Williamstown residents, 15 commercial enterprises, and seven institutions.