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Two Harbors seeks funding options for wastewater treatment plan

The Two Harbors City Council received an update on its wastewater treatment facility improvement plan at its meeting Monday, Feb. 25.

The plan calls for an estimated $18 million in improvements to the wastewater treatment facility to upgrade the biosolid handling process and fix design flaws in the mercury filtration system, as well as other upgrades to the 60-year-old treatment system. Bolton and Menk environmental project engineer Brian Guldan updated the council on the plan's progress.

In December, the council authorized Bolton and Menk to move forward with creation of plans and specifications. These are on track to be completed and submitted by the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency's March 28 deadline for project certification.

The plan is undergoing an environmental review. The MPCA is also reviewing the plant's current permit, as it was up for renewal under the five-year cycle. The plan is also on track for a possible July bid date, pending funding.

Several councilors returned from spending several days at the Minnesota Capitol for Lake County's Capitol Days session, where the wastewater treatment plant plan was a main topic of discussion.

"The bottom line is that we're right on track by having a shovel-ready project," Mayor Chris Swanson said. "That's critical. Having your project shovel-ready can be all the difference when looking for grant money."

Swanson said he'd heard from officials there was loan money available for the project from the Public Facilities Authority, but that due to the project's $18 million price tag, it wouldn't be feasible without grant money.

"There's loan money there, but once you start doing the math, it doesn't work," Swanson said.

The project would be funded partially by $3 million already earmarked in the city's reserves for facility updates, getting possibly $2 million to $3 million in grant money from the Water Infrastructure Fund from the Public Facilities Authority, the Iron Range Resources and Rehabilitation Board and direct appropriations.

After the grants, the rest of the funding would likely come from monthly wastewater charge increases. Swanson asked for Guldan to work with city administration to come up with a chart to show the economic impact the project would have on the residents to help when talking to legislators about the project.

"Bottom line is, we need to put together a chart, so when we talk to Sen. Tom Bakk, we can show that the user fees are just too outrageous," Swanson said. "It's going to be a tough battle. We have our work cut out for us."

Teri Cadeau

Teri Cadeau is a reporter for the Lake County News-Chronicle. 

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