Winamac Town Council Holds Public Hearing Over Application for $700,000 OCRA Grant

Winamac Town Council members held a public hearing over their OCRA grant application Monday night.

OCRA Certified Grant Administrator Mike Kleinpeter began the hearing by stating that the town is applying for $700,000 with a $550,000 match for proposed wastewater treatment facility upgrades. Kleinpeter said town’s project is competing with 17 other proposals. The application must be submitted by February in order to be eligible for funding.

Midwestern Engineers CEO Mark Sullivan explained that the proposed upgrades are not optional.When the town renewed their NPDES (National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System) Permit last year, they were given 3 years to adapt plant procedures to the new Environmental Protection Agency compliance regulating ammonia levels.

Town Manager Brad Zellers mentioned that they have been monitoring ammonia levels at the plant for about 10 years. However, now there is a mandated amount that is allowed to be in the water after it’s been treated before it can be legally discharged into the river.

Sullivan said the upgrades would need to adapt the town’s lagoon water treatment system to facilitate ammonia removal. He described three different ways this could be carried out.

He explained, “They’re trying to come up with ways to keep that bacteria working in cold weather. One of the alternatives is they maintain these bobbers out in the water and they try to control the temperature in the air with those. The other types of treatment, they build a separate little cell along-side the lagoon and cover it.”

He said the side stream attachment is the option that is utilized most often. He added that another option is to convert the entire plant to mechanical but he described that option as cost prohibitive. He said switching to mechanical would cost anywhere from $7-10 million where this modification is only estimated to cost around $1.25 million.

No definitive choice has been made about which option will be utilized. Sullivan said receiving assistance from OCRA would significantly help town take care of the upgrades faster. Should they be awarded funding, they would be able to start the design phase this summer and start construction next year.

Members of the public provided no feedback and the hearing was adjourned. During the regularly scheduled meeting, members approved a resolution to submit the grant application to the Office of Community and Rural Affairs.

Submitting the grant is the final step in the process and then in April, the town will find out if any funds have been awarded. Sullivan added that if the grant is not awarded in April, they will immediately apply for assistance during next the grant cycle in July.