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Prairie City receives grant, loan for sewer upgrade

By Robby Bullock

For the Blue Mountain Eagle

Published on April 28, 2016 3:17PM

From left, Prairie City Public Works Director Chris Camarena explains the city’s wastewater system Thursday, as engineer Joe Hitz and U.S. Department of Agriculture Rural Development State Director Vicki Walker and Community Program Specialist LaDonn McElligott listen. A USDA Rural Development loan and grant will allow the city to upgrade the aging system without increasing residents’ sewer fees.

The Eagle/Sean Hart

From left, Prairie City Public Works Director Chris Camarena explains the city’s wastewater system Thursday, as engineer Joe Hitz and U.S. Department of Agriculture Rural Development State Director Vicki Walker and Community Program Specialist LaDonn McElligott listen. A USDA Rural Development loan and grant will allow the city to upgrade the aging system without increasing residents’ sewer fees.

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Prairie City Mayor Pro-tem, City Councilwoman and former Public Works Director Georgia Patterson, left, shows USDA Rural Development Community Program Specialist LaDonn McElligott one of the city’s wastewater pumps Thursday.

The Eagle/Sean Hart

Prairie City Mayor Pro-tem, City Councilwoman and former Public Works Director Georgia Patterson, left, shows USDA Rural Development Community Program Specialist LaDonn McElligott one of the city’s wastewater pumps Thursday.

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PRAIRIE CITY — Prairie City is about to get a sewer upgrade, and officials say residents won’t see a rate increase.

The city will receive a $1.28 million loan and a $624,760 grant to improve its wastewater system from the U.S. Department of Agriculture Rural Development, State Director Vicki Walker said while visiting Thursday.

“Rural communities across the country are faced with the challenges of maintaining and upgrading their infrastructure,” she said. “This project will ensure adequate utilities for Prairie City, protect the environment and help support the town’s sustained economic vitality.”

Rural Development Community Program Specialist LaDonn McElligott said the city would be able to refinance its current sewer system debt with the Department of Environmental Quality at a low interest rate and a longer term, 40 years, to minimize the cost to residents.

Public Works Director Chris Camarena said the overhaul encompasses a wide variety of problems with the wastewater system, but will primarily consist of repairing and replacing outdated and unreliable water pumps, pipes, force mains and manholes.

He said the current pumps use a large amount of power and are unreliable. When they need fixed, he said, finding parts and someone who can service them is difficult because they are made by an obscure, foreign manufacturer.

Camarena said another area of focus is repairing and replacing the old sewer pipes and manholes. He said the city spends a lot of time and resources fighting the issues that arise with defective pipe. Some of the pipes allow groundwater into the system, which increases the costs to pump the sewage — and additional water — to the lagoons, he said.

With the new equipment, the wastewater system will be more efficient, while also saving the city resources spent on frequent repairs.

Prairie City Mayor Jim Hamsher said the project would benefit residents without increasing their monthly sewer bill.

“We should see no rate increase right now,” he said. “And it should have much lower operating costs, so it should eventually save the city money.”

The city hopes to get the project started this winter when the groundwater level recedes.



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