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Willmar gets additional $2.3M for wastewater plant

WILLMAR -- Willmar will receive an additional $2.1 million grant from the Minnesota Public Facilities Authority to help pay for the city's $86 million wastewater treatment project.

City Administrator Michael Schmit said the funding is good news for the city because the money will arrive in the form of a grant rather than a loan. The more money the city receives in the form of grants, the less the city will need to borrow to finance the project, and, subsequently, rates paid by users will be reduced, he said.

"There was always a commitment from the PFA that if they got additional funding, we would get this money as a grant. If not, it would have been in the form of a loan,'' said Schmit.

City Finance Director Steve Okins said the Public Facilities Authority received money from the federal stimulus program for wastewater projects, but Schmit could not say whether the stimulus money allowed the Public Facilities Authority to award Willmar's funding as a grant instead of a loan.

Schmit said the city has received a signed grant agreement, informing the city of the grant award.

"Anytime you receive grant funds for projects, it's got to be good news,'' he said.

The $2,192,935 grant will be combined with an earlier Public Facilities Authority grant of $500,000 to fund part of the $6,489,000 cost of treatment plant equipment that will reduce the total maximum daily load of ammonia and phosphorus that will leave the treatment plant and enter Hawk Creek and eventually the Minnesota River.

Schmit told the City Council's Finance Committee on Monday afternoon about the grant award. The committee voted to amend the Public Facilities Authority grant agreement to accept the additional funding and to authorize city staff to execute the agreement.

Acting Committee Chairman Rick Fagerlie asked Schmit for an update on the city's application for a $15 million grant, which Congress has authorized but has not appropriated. Schmit said the city has been working with federal lawmakers to get the grant appropriated.

Schmit said the city tried to schedule a meeting with U.S. Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., during the congressional recess, but the senator's office said she had received 300 meeting requests.

Schmit also said he had contacted the Washington, D.C., office of David Turch, the city's congressional lobbyist, "and asked them if they could see what they could find out over there.''

Besides the grants from the Public Facilities Authority, the city has received $287,000 from the Environmental Protection Agency under the State and Tribal Assistance Grants program to help tribes and other entities comply with federal environmental regulations.

David Little
David Little covers the Willmar City Council, Willmar Municipal Utilities and other city news.
(320) 235-1150