City gets loan for sewage facility

By Kevin Hanson

The Courier-Herald

Enumclaw residents are likely facing increases to their utility bills as part of the city's need for cash to pay for upgrading of the municipal wastewater treatment plant.

But, thanks to a low-interest loan just authorized by the state, perhaps the hit won't be as difficult to take.

As part of the state budget signed last week by Gov. Christine Gregoire, the city will receive another loan through the Public Works Trust Fund. The amount this time is $9.75 million and - like the city's previous loan of $9.25 million - the loan will be repaid at an interest rate of one-half of 1 percent.

City Administrator Mark Bauer said the city had attempted to land an outright grant of $1 million, which would not have to be repaid, but that request died early in the state Legislature's budget process.

The city's effort to get the treatment plant upgraded continues to be a necessary move if Enumclaw is to grow. Currently, the state has ordered the city hold off on new business and residential developments until the plant is improved. The city plant discharges into the White River, a salmon-spawning waterway, and the city's discharge did not meet governmental requirements.

Design work for the plant expansion is about done and bids for construction work could be received by the end of the year. It's expected the work will be done by 2007, Bauer said.

Costs for the plant upgrade have increased over the year to perhaps as much as $23 million, according to Public Works Director Chris Searcy. In addition to the state loans, the city could spent about $1 million it now has in cash reserves, Searcy said, adding the city could issue revenue bonds to come up with the rest of the money.

In any case, the plant will eventually be funded through rates charged to city residents and developers. A rate study is under way, Searcy said, and recommendations could be forwarded to members of the City Council by fall.

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