Toledo is $1 million closer to a new wastewater treatment plant after being selected to receive a Community Development Block Grant earlier this month.
It was announced during the June 17 Toledo City Council meeting that, of the 14 cities to receive the grant during this year’s funding cycle, Toledo was the only one to receive the maximum $1 million award, and was one of just two Lewis County cities to be on the list of recipients.
The other had been Vader, who was selected to receive $716,787 to replace aging sewer lines in town.
This grant is the latest good news in the city’s efforts to fund construction of the plant and will be used along with a $5 million grant awarded earlier this year from the State Department of Ecology and a $400,000 grant from a Lewis County fund set aside for distressed communities.
“We’ve pretty well saturated the market and got about every grant you could actually get,” said Mayor Jerry Pratt. “We were lucky enough to get what was out there.”
Back in July of 2011, when possible funding strategies were being identified, the awarding of so many grants had been described as a best-case scenario, allowing the city to avoid a rate hike to $165 per month if they were to depend heavily on a Public Works Trust Fund loan. Recent estimates place expected sewer rates at $79.90 per month, including all fees and taxes, but will depend on how low or high bids come in to complete the expected $9.6 million sewer plant upgrade.
In preparation for an increase, the council voted in September of 2011 to raise sewer rates by $10 per month each year from 2012 through 2014, and the next increase this coming January is expected to be the last increase needed to being rates up to speed.
City Clerk Michelle Whitten said the next step for Toledo is to acquire construction permits and to send the project out for bids, which Pratt said he hopes can happen soon before construction costs begin to go up.
But these grants still need approval from state legislators before being given to the city, and a current special session to complete the budget is expected by some to not end until July. Pratt told council members that any funding from the state would remain “in limbo” until legislators agreed on a budget that would fulfill their financial obligations, as well as comply with a State Supreme Court directive to adequately fund public education.
“We’ve jumped through all the hoops, we’ve got all the guarantees,” he said. “We just have to get it past the budget and hope it’s still there.”
He added City Hall has been in touch with the Department of Ecology and has been told they have done all they need to do to move the process along.