July 01--St. Joseph has been awarded a low-interest loan to complete another federally mandated water treatment project.
The 20-year loan, awarded on Tuesday by the Missouri Department of Natural Resources, totals $56 million. The 2.5 interest rate is about half of what is offered on the open market.
"It's a big deal," said Andy Clements, assistant director of Public Works & Transportation. "Especially when you're talking $56 million."
It will fund an ammonia removal project, which will reduce the amount of the nutrient released into the Missouri River. Specific levels have been mandated by the EPA and MDNR, and must be met by Dec. 31, 2016.
It will also fund a biosolids dryer that will allow the city to sell its dried sludge as fertilizer. Mr. Clements said that could net the city $80,000 to $150,000 in revenue a year.
Because of the city's planning, the scope of the project has been reduced, Mr. Clements said. Instead of building an entire new system, the contractors will be able to rehabilitate some basins at the Wastewater Treatment Plant.
He said that, coupled with the low interest loan, has ultimately provided for a smaller increase in sewer rates, and therefore has saved the taxpayers some money.
The City Council last week approved a 16 percent rate increase for residential users -- about $6.80 per month for the average household.
"It could have been a lot worse," Mr. Clements said.
The State Revolving Fund loan was approved in 2011 by the voters, who authorized the city to apply for $105 million in bonds. That money also covers the Whitehead Creek and Blacksnake Creek Stormwater Separation Projects, as well as the Eastside Wastewater Improvement Project.
Kim Norvell can be reached at email@example.com. Follow her on Twitter: @SJNPNorvell.
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