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Bids to be opened this week for construction of $26 million water treatment plant in northeast Willmar

Plans have been in the works for more than 10 years for Willmar Municipal Utilities to construct a new water treatment plant at its northeast facility. Bids will be opened Thursday. Construction is estimated to take 18 months.

Willmar Municipal Utilities Water Department Supervisor Alan Neer during an Aug. 8, 2022, tour points out the footprint of the new water treatment plant, which will be located adjacent to the current plant in northeast Willmar.
Willmar Municipal Utilities Water Department Supervisor Alan Neer during an Aug. 8, 2022, tour points out the footprint of the new water treatment plant, which will be located adjacent to the current plant in northeast Willmar.
Jennifer Kotila / West Central Tribune
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WILLMAR — A new water treatment plant has been something that has been in the works for more than 10 years at Willmar Municipal Utilities.

Bids will be opened this week for the approximately $26 million project that will take approximately 18 months to complete, according to Willmar Municipal Utilities General Manager John Harren.

Members of the Willmar Municipal Utilities Commission, city staff and City Council members listen Aug. 8, 2022, as Willmar Municipal Utilities Water Department Supervisor Alan Neer talks about plans for the new water treatment plant to be built adjacent to the current Northeast Water Treatment Plant.
Members of the Willmar Municipal Utilities Commission, city staff and City Council members listen Aug. 8, 2022, as Willmar Municipal Utilities Water Department Supervisor Alan Neer talks about plans for the new water treatment plant to be built adjacent to the current Northeast Water Treatment Plant.
Jennifer Kotila / West Central Tribune

Bids for the project will be awarded at the next Municipal Utilities Commission meeting, pending review for completeness by a Willmar Municipal Utilities consultant, and construction will start as soon as the selected contractor's schedule allows, according to Harren.

Willmar Municipal Utilities Commission members, along with city staff and City Council members, toured the site of the new facility Aug. 8.

Willmar Municipal Utilities Water Department Supervisor Alan Neer pointed out the footprint of the new water treatment plant, which will be located adjacent to the current Northeast Water Treatment Plant. The current plant will remain in operation while the new plant is being built and then be demolished when the new plant is operational, according to Neer.

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Although 75% to 80% of the design for the new water treatment plant was completed about three years ago, there was still enough capacity in the current plant to meet the city’s needs and it was still meeting water quality standards. Therefore, construction of the new facility was put on hold in order to try to secure some grants to fund the project, according to Harren.

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“One of the biggest challenges that we have had in securing any type of grant or grant financing for this project is on the city’s wastewater side — their inability to meet the salty discharge or the chloride limit. The only way we qualify for a lot of those programs is if we meet that,” Harren said. “Now the price tag to meet that — and this estimate is like three years old when the city and the utility jointly studied our options there — that’s coming at a price tag of about $100 million.”

Willmar Municipal Utilities could no longer wait to secure grant funding due to running out of capacity in the current plant, and instead issued 10-year bonds to finance the project for the new plant, Harren noted.

The design of the new plant will help Willmar Municipal Utilities address some of the issues it has with meeting chloride limits, according to Harren.

More by Jennifer Kotila:
A 19-year-old Montevideo man was taken to St. Cloud Hospital Friday morning following a crash in which he was a passenger.
A 19-year-old Willmar woman was transported to CentraCare — Rice Memorial Hospital after the vehicle she was driving crashed with a semi on Minnesota Highway 7 in East Lake Lillian Township.
In split 5-2 votes, Willmar City Council approved accepting a grant to construct an outdoor fitness court and applying for an Age-Friendly Minnesota Community grant.
A ribbon-cutting ceremony took place Wednesday for the nearly $10 million Events and Recreation Center at the Willmar Civic Center.

Jennifer Kotila is a reporter for West Central Tribune of Willmar, Minnesota. She focuses on local government, specifically the City of Willmar, and business.

She can be reached via email at: jkotila@wctrib.com or phone at 320-214-4339.
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