City nets $6.2M grant for wastewater treatment plant

The city is now $6,245,000 closer to starting construction of its long-desired wastewater treatment plant after receiving a grant from the State Lands and Investments Board (SLIB).

However, inflationary construction costs continue to keep the first day of construction in the future as the city finds itself working on ways to meet increasing bid amounts.

"This was a big win for us when we got it," Mark Westenskow, the city's public works director, said.

Westenskow said the city initially sought $7.5 million from SLIB and, despite having $1.3 million cut from the initial request, Green River was still the highest recipient from SLIB's recent grant awards. Westenskow said SLIB opted to cut back on individual awards to ensure the funds available could be spread further.

"We can't fault them for that," he said.

The award and other loans had put the city close to being able to start construction, but Westenskow said recent bids the city received for the project have come in higher than anticipated, causing the city to push the work into the future. Westenskow said the high inflation seen during and immediately following the pandemic has calmed and suppliers are no longer quoting prices which change on a daily basis. However, that also doesn't mean inflationary pressures have stopped, and with a shortage of skilled labor pushing costs higher, the city is again coming up short.

Initially, the cost of the project was estimated at $30 million before the pandemic. A few years later, that cost is now around $45 million.

"Waiting longer isn't helping us," he said.

Westenskow is grateful for help SLIB has provided in helping the city. Aside from the grant award, the city was approved for a low-interest loan to help cover construction costs. He said SLIB recently informed the city about a lower-interest loan it would qualify for, which would also save $9 million in repayments to SLIB. The support SLIB has shown hasn't gone unappreciated Westenskow said, as he realizes there was a lot of competition for the grant.

Further discussion about how the city could proceed with construction will take place later this month. A public hearing is scheduled for Feb. 21 and Westenskow hopes residents show up to discuss the situation the city faces with its wastewater system and what options are available.

Green River's current wastewater treatment system, which utilizes a series of sewer lagoons, remains a major concern for the city. The last expansion on the system occurred more than three decades ago and Westenskow said challenges exist with maintaining equipment that was state of the art in the 1980s. The cost to replace equipment is much higher due to the fact that parts need to be specially built. Westenskow said other issues to contend with include not knowing when a part could be built and sent to the city and the fact that once the city builds the new treatment plant, any spare parts for the current system would be obsolete and couldn't be shelved or returned.


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