The Union County engineer's office is applying for federal funds to help offset the estimated $4.5-million cost of a sewer project.

The Union County engineer's office is applying for federal funds to help offset the estimated $4.5-million cost of a sewer project.

Joanna Pinkerton, project engineer with the engineer's office, said after the three-month design process she will have a better idea of how much the Raymond-Peoria sewer project will cost.

The current estimates are based on 2008 figures, so the project might be more expensive than anticipated.

At the Union County commissioners' meeting on Jan. 26, Pinkerton said an application is being filed with the U.S. Department of Agriculture's rural economic development loan and grant program. The county could receive a maximum of $1-million.

Commissioner Charles Hall stressed that it is up to $1-million, but not necessarily $1-million.

"They can say they don't have the money available," Pinkerton said after the meeting, "and that, more than not, happens."

Raymond and Peoria are considered low- to moderate-income communities and the sewer project is a large expense.

"It's going to be expensive and when you are talking low- to moderate-income families that aren't used to, No. 1, paying a monthly sewer bill, it will be very expensive," Hall said in October. "Getting hooked up will be expensive. So we have to find some way to offset these costs."

Pinkerton said it is the county's goal to reduce construction costs through grants and loans.

"We hate to burden residents with overly large fees," she said.

Since the Environmental Protection Agency issued orders and findings last fall, the county is required to resolve a pollution issue that stems from failing individual on-lot treatment systems.

Pinkerton said the county will apply for four or five different grants.

"But this is the mother load," she said of the loan and grant from the USDA.

Applying for the USDA loan and grant is the second step in the process, according to Pinkerton.

The first step occurred when the county applied for a planning loan that provided the money to hire URS Corp. of Columbus to plan the project.

Pinkerton said the county's engineering department is meeting with the engineering consultants bimonthly to discuss the project.

The county cannot apply for a Community Development Block Grant until May 1.

"It is a state program we participate in every year," she said. "This year, if we are successful, we will use it toward the Raymond and Peoria project."