A plan to extend the town sewer system to the Island Grove subdivision in Edgartown was off and then on again this week, as selectmen debated whether to place the question on the warrant for a special town meeting later this month.

At their meeting Monday, selectmen voted to hold the $806,000 spending article for the annual town meeting in April; the question will also require an exemption from Proposition 2 1/2 on the town ballot and there is not enough time to schedule a special election to accompany the special town meeting.

But at a second, emergency meeting held Wednesday, selectmen reversed themselves and agreed to put the article on the Oct. 27 special town meeting warrant while leaving the ballot vote until April.

The urgency stems from the town’s eligibility under the federal stimulus package for a USDA grant loan that would cover up to 70 per cent of the $1.1 million total project cost. “We’ve got everything we need for the grant with the exception of town meeting authorization,” Joe Alosso, Edgartown wastewater facilities manager, told the board on Monday. “The word is that they are looking to end this [grant] program in either January or February of next year.”

The warrant article stipulates that no money can be borrowed or spent for the project before July 1 of next year, and that the grant must cover at least 10 to 40 per cent of the total cost of the project.

Mr. Alosso said he expects the grant award to be at least $470,000. Island Grove residents would be responsible for half the remaining cost, with the option to pay up front or over a period of 20 years, including interest. Town taxpayers would cover the remainder of the project cost.

Town administrator Pamela Dolby said she had received many phone calls from Edgartown residents concerned that the decision to postpone the article would cut the town out of collecting the substantial grant money. “It’s just crazy for the town to say no to that much money,” Mrs. Dolby said. “It brings the cost of the project way, way down.”

The project is intended to help reduce nitrogen loading in the Edgartown Great Pond, which is under stress, as documented by the Massachusetts Estuaries Project last year. The estuaries study recommended that the town tie an additional 300 homes into its sewer system as one mitigation measure for the pond.

A sewer project was completed for homes in Edgartown Meadows last year.

Nitrogen comes from septic systems, among other sources; the Great Pond has also been affected by a plume of nitrogen from the old sewer plant that is moving through the groundwater. The plant has since been upgraded.

Mr. Alosso agreed to the conditional warrant article. “I think it’s a great idea,” he said.

In other business Monday, Comcast representative Mary O’Keefe reported to the board on a preliminary plan to bring cable service to approximately 535 homes on Chappaquiddick. The plan calls for running a cable underwater to Chappy; the estimated cost is between $1.95 and $2.15 million.

“Obviously the numbers are very, very high,” said Ms. O’Keefe, the senior manager of government and community relations for Comcast for southeastern Massachusetts. She was not certain about the individual cost of the project for each property owner, but said Comcast would require that at least 60 per cent of residents sign up in order to make the project feasible.

Ms. Dolby said the proposal came about because the town is in the process of renegotiating its contract with Comcast. Chappaquiddick residents have long appealed for cable service to their tiny island. Ms. O’Keefe said there would be no cost to the town.

Selectmen agreed to appoint a committee of Chappaquiddick residents to consider the plan.

Edgartown library trustee Patricia Rose reported that the library will likely apply to the National Board of Library Commissioners to extend a Dec. 31 deadline for fund-raising to June of 2010. The library was slated to receive a matching grant for the new library building project if it could raise $4.6 million by the December deadline. The national board has agreed to extend the deadline for libraries having difficulty with fund-raising efforts due to the poor state of the economy.

The Edgartown Library Foundation is doing fund-raising for the library project. Selectmen agreed to support the application for an extension. If it is allowed, the library will have until next June to raise the money.