The Wisconsin Dept. of Natural Resources and an advisory group met for the last time on April 15, 2014, to finalize their recommendations for changes to the Wisconsin Clean Water Fund program (WDNR Chapter 162). The group has met periodically since early February 2014. Substantive changes that have been proposed are listed below.
* A revised priority scoring system to be incorporated into the Priority Evaluation and Ranking Form (PERF) has been recommended for the revolving loan fund program.
* While not part of the rule revision process, the DNR is implementing an online Intent to Apply (ITA) submittal process in the fall of 2014 for the 2015 ITA submittals. Once the rules are in effect (spring/summer 2015), the WDNR will begin programming for an on-line self-scoring PERF to accompany the online ITA form.
* The date for annual ITA and PERF submittals will change when the rules are enacted (anticipated spring 2015) from December 31 to October 31.
* Options are provided for sanitary districts and sewerage districts by which MHI (median household income) is calculated in determining eligibility for hardship financial assistance or principal forgiveness on a loan. This change is necessary based on the time and cost for obtaining this information for non-standard municipal boundaries. While the group noted that the new American Community Survey (ACS) methodology can result in a large margin of error, the statutes require that the data be provided by the US Census Bureau.
Sanitary districts and sewerage districts, because of their unique boundaries, may use one of the following methods for determining their MHI: 1) Requesting a custom tabulation of income data at the census block level from the American Community Survey most recently published with 5-year data after providing the ACS with the census block information for the district; 2) The median household income of the census tract or block numbering area that encompasses the municipality. If the municipality falls within two or more census tracts or block numbering areas, the median household income shall be weighted by the population of the municipality that resides within each minor civil division; or 3) The median household income of the minor civil division, such as a town, within which the municipality is located. If the municipality falls within two or more minor civil divisions, the median household income shall be weighted by the population of the municipality that resides within each minor civil division. The applicant will be responsible for collecting this data which will be valid for a one-year period.
* The total estimated cost of a project to be funded under the small loan program (through the State Trust Fund administered by the Board of Commissioners of Public Lands) will be increased from $1 million or less to $2 million or less.
A tentative schedule for finalizing new rules is as follows: two-week economic impact public comment period end of April, early May; rules submitted to the Natural Resources Board at their June board meeting for public hearing authorization; 30-day public comment period in July; and changes made and rules finalized end of August or September 2014. DNR staff anticipate requesting NRB adoption late fall and then subsequent legislative review in spring 2015. The effective date of the rule is anticipated to be summer 2015.
If you have any questions about the rule revisions, please contact Robin Schmidt, Chief, Environmental Loans Section, at 608-266-3915 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Updates to the rule will be posted on the DNR web site and in E-Bulletins at http://dnr.wi.gov/Aid/LoanNews.html
If you would like to discuss a specific project need (funding or engineering related) with R.A. Smith National, please contact Chuck Pape at email@example.com. Chuck is a civil engineer with R.A. Smith National and was a voluntary member of the advisory group. He has 30+ years of prior experience with WDNR, serving primarily as their first point of contact for all Clean Water Fund projects in southeastern Wisconsin. Chuck’s experience with the existing funding system at WDNR provided a unique perspective on priority scoring and loan eligibility.
R.A. Smith National will continue to track the progress of these rule changes and communicate updates through this grants newsletter, our online grants directory at www.rasmithnational.com and our Wisconsin Grant Seekers group on LinkedIn.