News

Buckley falls short in bid for loan

Missing out on money could delay planned improvements to city treatment plant

By Jessica Keller

The Courier-Herald

The city of Buckley did not receive its much hoped for loan to pay for the city's wastewater treatment plant, but city officials are optimistic they can work around that setback.

At the Sept. 14 City Council meeting, in her staff report Councilwoman Pat Johnson announced the city came up short for qualifying for a public works trust fund loan of $10 million that would pay for a significant portion of the city's upgraded wastewater treatment plant.

The city heard the news a couple of weeks ago, City Administrator Dave Schmidt said.

"I think our first reaction was why?" he said.

City officials were surprised to hear they fell short because, when applying for the design loan, the city scored really well, and received the loan without a problem. Schmidt said when applying for that loan, they went over the application very carefully, and the trust fund representative they worked with said it was so well done it could be used for the construction loan and the city should be fine.

While the city scored within the 80s out of 100 points possible for the design loan, it only scored 58 out of 100 points for the construction loan, which surprised both the city and the trust fund representative.

Schmidt said city staff and engineers will soon have a meeting with the trust fund representative to go over both loan applications to figure out what happened in the interim, whether there was a discrepancy between the two applications, or some information was inadvertently omitted.

In the worse case scenario, this setback could mean the city has to delay construction for a year while it applies for the loan again. That could have serious ramifications for the city from the Department of Ecology because the city was given until the end of 2006 to complete the new wastewater treatment plant and bring its water effluent back on line, and Schmidt said it was critical the city stayed on schedule with the construction.

However, Schmidt said hopefully the city will be able to start on certain phases of the project on schedule, and is also looking at other funding options.

The city already has some money, approximately $1.4 million in its sewer capital fund, to move ahead on the project, and by next year the city will have added to that.

Schmidt said the city is also hoping the Department of Health and Social Services will appropriate its portion of the funding for the project soon, so the city will have that money to draw from.

Another possible funding sources are the state's Water Strategic Team, which showed an interest in Buckley's water reuse program in the past, and even budgeted money to help fund a portion of it last year, only to have it cut at the last minute. Schmidt said it is possible, that money will be rebudgeted this year.

Another option, the city is considering, is seeing if housing developments wanting to build within the city would be willing to help pay for some of the sewer treatment plant costs since the added sewer hookups would benefit those developments.

The city is also looking at partnering with Enumclaw to build a facility to dispose of biosolid waste. Schmidt said there was no point for the two cities having redundant facilities, and it is possible they could share the facility for biosolids, whether it is a composting facility or a natural gas dryer.

"It only makes sense to share what we can to keep our costs down," he said.

The first phase of the wastewater treatment plant, which will hopefully begin early next year is building a storage facility to house a belt-filtered press for dewatering of biosolids. That project is scheduled to cost approximately $750,000.

While that's doable, Schmidt said, without the loan, the second phase of the project cost approximately $4.5 million.

"So that's going to be tough to do without some help somewhere," he said.

Jessica Keller can be reached at jkeller@courierherald.com.

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