City gets first installment of $9 million total in state grants for wastewater plant

Sean C. Morgan

Of The New Era

The Sweet Home City Council last week accepted a $2 million grant from the Oregon Business Development Department to help pay for its planned $28.2 million Wastewater Treatment Plant project.

It is the first of two grants, totaling $9 million, the state has awarded the construction project.

A year ago, the city was awarded the grant, said City Manager Ray Towry during the council’s regular meeting on July 23, and now the city needs to begin drawing on the grant money.

After a decade of wastewater line replacement to reduce inflow and infiltration and the cost of further projects in the collections system began to increase, with smaller impacts on the system, the city began looking at upgrading and expanding the Wastewater Treatment Plant to handle excess wastewater flows.

Inflow and infiltration is ground water that leaks into the sewer system through deteriorating pipes and cross connections with storm drainage. During heavy rains, storm water can cause overflows at the Treatment Plant.

The city built and placed the plant into service in 1947, said Finance Director Brandon Neish. It made improvements in 1974 and in 1994.

City officials previously estimated the cost of improvements at the plant at more than $40 million. Since then, Murraysmith, an engineering firm, outlined a plan to rehabilitate much of the concrete infrastructure at the plant at a much lower cost, about $28.2 million, according to the city’s latest projection.

In addition to a larger capacity, the project includes upgrades. Among them, the project will replace the headworks, improving the filtration of flushed debris before it enters the plant.

The project is in the final design phase, with Murraysmith preparing final plans.

Neish said that $2.2 million is allocated to the final design phase.

Since 2017, the city has been actively searching for funding sources to pay for the project, Neish said.

“An initial one-stop, a meeting combining available loan resources in one room, brought the Department of Environmental Quality, the U.S. Department of Agriculture and Business Oregon to the table with proposals, including low-interest loans and grants. The city also completed an application to lobby the Oregon Legislature and obtain funding through state lottery bonds for infrastructure projects.”

The city was successful in securing $2 million in initial funds, Neish said, and it will use that money to cover nearly the entire final design costs, with the remaining $200,000 to be funded through city wastewater revenues.

This year, the state legislature passed a bill approving a second grant for $7 million in lottery funds, said City Manager Ray Towry. “Nine million dollars out of the $282 million project is not too shabby.”

Towry credited Sen. Fred Girod and Sherrie Sprenger for advocating for Sweet Home in the senate and House of Representatives.

Additionally, the city anticipates saving $7 million from existing wastewater revenues to spend on the project, a total of $16 million, leaving $12.2 million to be covered.

The city expects to borrow the funds, Neish said. With the grant and other revenues, it will save an estimated $1.2 million annually, approximately $25 per month for the average sewer customer.

Present at the meeting were councilors Susan Coleman, Lisa Gourley, Mayor Greg Mahler, Diane Gerson, James Goble and Dave Trask. Cortney Nash was absent.