By: Maria Moore
Throughout this past December and into the New Year, a steady stream of press releases from Gov. Malloy’s Office have announced the award of the latest batch of Small Town Economic Assistance Program (STEAP) grants. As a small municipality, New Hartford can apply for STEAP grants which are awarded once a year up to a maximum of $500,000 for each town per year.
We waited eagerly for each press release, looking to see what New Hartford had been awarded. However, by yesterday, when the last of the grant recipients were announced, it became clear that out of the $20 million that the state Bond Commission had allocated to the STEAP program, not one penny had been awarded to New Hartford. Perplexing when one saw that a number of small towns had been awarded not just one, but two, grants.
How could this be, when New Hartford had submitted two applications, one for $30,000 and one for $500,000 which exactly fit the criteria of the program? STEAP grants are specifically to fund economic development, community conservation and quality of life projects. The town’s First Selectman submitted a $30,000 application to fund a study for a new senior center, and a $500,000 application to fund sewer line extensions from Cottage Street to the Greenwoods Industrial Park which would have allowed businesses in the park to hook to the new sewer plant.
We set out to find out how these STEAP grants are allocated and if possible, why nothing was awarded to our town. Unfortunately, we too, came up empty-handded.
We called Gov. Malloy’s press secretary who was the contact person on the press releases, and who referred us to the OPM – Office of Policy and Management – which, we were told, is where applications are evaluated and the awards made.
A call to the OPM was equally as unsatisfactory. We were told by the press secretary there that she had just started working in that department and that she hd not been involved in the decision-making. There was no-one in the department, we were told, that had participated in the evaluation of STEAP grant applications and in the awarding of the grants.
And there we are, back to the beginning of this article, with $20 million in grants allocated to small municipalities in the state, and not a penny coming to New Hartford to help build the sewer lines to bring more users to our brand-new, underutilized sewer plant.
“Do politics play a role in the awarding of the STEAP grants?” Our reporter asked the press secretaries of both Gov. Malloy and the OPM. A legitimate question under the circumstances.
See the complete list of the 2012 STEAP grants awarded: 2012 STEAP Awards (114).
For more information on the STEAP grant program see the STEAP Program section of the OPM website.