The $43 million wastewater reclamation plant now being built in Airway Heights has full funding after the City Council approved acceptance of a U.S. Department of Agriculture loan on Monday.
The $4.9 million rural development stimulus loan provides the final piece in the project’s $32 million Phase 1B, which also received a $23 million grant from the Department of Ecology recently.
“We would have obviously preferred another grant to pick up the last little bit of funding, but we’ve been very successful this year,” said Mayor Matthew Pederson, who gave credit to fundraising efforts of the council and assistance of officials at the local, state and federal levels.
Council member Patrick Rushing expressed concerns that the loan’s 3.5 percent interest rate was too high and asked if it might lead to another sewage rate increase for city residents. City manager Albert Tripp said the interest rate is competitive in the current economic climate and no sewer fee increase will be necessary to pay off the loan. Pederson added that a primary goal of the project has always been to allow for lower sewer rates after its completion.
Starting in spring 2011, the city will process about 1 million gallons of wastewater per day at the plant instead of shipping it to the city of Spokane for treatment, which Tripp has said will save the city nearly $700,000.
The council also authorized application for a Department of Transportation grant of nearly $567,000 to fund the resurfacing of 14th Avenue from Lundstrom Street to Campbell Street. The stimulus grant requires a city match of 13.7 percent, or about $77,600, which Tripp said would come from the city’s real estate excise tax fund.
County Sheriff Ozzie Knezovich was present to ask the council to consider passing a resolution in support of extending a one-tenth of 1 percent public safety tax. County voters in the Aug. 18 primary elections will decide whether to keep the sales tax for another 10 years. Knezovich said a failure to renew the tax would result in a budget revenue decrease of up to $4.8 million for the county with roughly $44,000 coming out of Airway Heights’ coffers.
He also said a large part of the Sheriff’s Community Oriented Policing Effort program is funded by this tax. There are four SCOPE stations on the West Plains, including locations in Cheney, Medical Lake and at Fairchild Air Force Base.
In other news, Rushing told the council a refurbishing of the new police station at 1307 S. Ziegler St. is finished and the department’s 13 officers and administrative assistant will be moving in next week. The council approved the purchase of the building in May for about $260,000 to give more breathing space to an increasingly cramped police force.