Knox Council Weighs Wastewater Treatment Plant Upgrade Financing Options

Knox Wastewater Treatment PlantThe City of Knox has a few options to pay for upgrades to their aging wastewater treatment plant.

One involves applying for a $600,000 grant from the state Office of Community and Rural Affairs, which requires a $1.3 million local match. The second option is a combination grant and loan from the U.S.D.A. Rural Development program. Engineer Chirag  Patel with Jones Petrie Rafinski told the city council the project must be formally submitted in order to receive consideration for a 45 percent U.S.D.A. grant.

He says the agency reviews the project as a whole to ensure all issues are being addressed at once through the grant/loan process.

Patel says the city may also be able to refinance their existing wastewater bond through U.S.D.A. and save some money. Doing so would also allow some other problems to be addressed immediately. For instance, the clarifiers at the plant will need to be overhauled within the next five years. Right now they’re not connected to backup generators and cannot be operated if the power goes out. Additionally there’s not an alarm attached to them to alert to a problem after hours.

Much of the plant’s infrastructure is more than 20 years old and no longer runs efficiently. At a minimum the city is looking at upgrades to the headworks to better deal with grit removal and screening. Patel says the biggest portion of the cost is the equipment. It accounts for about $500,000 of the project’s budget, with much of that earmarked for a screen and grit removal package. Improvements to the aeration side of the plant are also proposed.

The Knox City Council voted last night to proceed with the letter of intent necessary to keep the state grant application on track. The letter is due to the Office of Community and Rural Affairs by Aug. 19th, but the actual grant application isn’t due until mid-October. Council members noted the OCRA grant application can be withdrawn later if they choose the U.S.D.A. grant/loan financing option.