NEWFIELD, N.Y. — Newfield will have nearly $184,000 in state funds to put toward improving its wastewater collection system; a project that is budgeted to cost close to $756,000.

It’s a nice chunk of change that will help balance the budget for all the updates Newfield aims to make to its water and sewer system, which is estimated to cost around $4.8M. The town is planning to improve its water storage capacity, as well as remediate two of Newfield’s three wells — which will require them to construct a fourth one during the interim — among other projects.

“I have to say that without the state funding or without federal funding, for that matter, these projects would just be insurmountable for most small towns,” said Newfield Town Supervisor Michael Allinger.

The $184,000 Newfield is receiving comes from a $638M pot of state funding to dole out grants as a part of New York’s Water Infrastructure Improvement Act (WIIA). The total funds were announced by Governor Kathy Hochul on Tuesday and break New York State’s record for funding water and sewer improvement projects under that act in a single year.

Originally, Hochul had pledged to dedicate $400M to WIIA grants but increased the total in response to an apparent “historical” number of applications. 

The move has earned the applause from the likes of Rob Hayes, the Director of Clean Water for Environmental Advocates NY, an advocacy and watchdog organization that pushes for improvements in water infrastructure among other environmental and health issues in New York State.

Newfield’s wastewater collection system was built about 40 years ago and its water systems were built during the 1960s. Allinger said that, ideally, these systems would have received the maintenance the town is pursuing now every 10 or 20 years, but relying on taxes to fund the work from the population that uses the service isn’t a realistic avenue. Around 2,300 people reside in the Town of Newfield water and sewer districts. Allinger also mentioned that previous limitations in technology made inspecting many of these underground systems essentially impossible without incurring potentially high unnecessary costs.

Completing these major infrastructure projects relies heavily on small municipalities securing external funding, often in the forms of state and federal grants. The funds that Newfield received from the state are a “drop in the bucket to what’s really needed” said Allinger, but he said the town is grateful and will take whatever it can get. 

Newfield is the only municipality in Tompkins County that will receive funding from WIIA in this round of applications. Allinger said that the town is continuing to hunt for these funds, and is considering using some of the money received through the American Rescue Plan Act on its maintenance and improvement projects.

Jimmy Jordan

Jimmy Jordan is a general assignment reporter for the Ithaca Voice. Questions? Story tips? Contact him at jjordan@ithacavoice.com Connect with him on Twitter @jmmy_jrdn