Residents in Mt. Vernon will see construction crews in 2018 as two successful grant applications are put to work improving both the city wastewater system and Phil Boyd Memorial Park.
The city lined up $2.5 million to address inflow and infiltration problems in its sewer collection system, according to City Recorder Tami Kowing. That includes a $2 million Community Development Block Grant and a $225,000 grant and a $225,000 loan from the Oregon Infrastructure Finance Authority. HECO Engineering of Payette, Idaho, is heading up the project.
“HECO ran video cameras in the pipes a couple months ago to identify problem areas,” Kowing said.
The city has 525 residents and about 275 sewer hook-ups. Mt. Vernon Mayor Kenny Delano said the city’s sewer collection system is “not relatively old” and is made of PVC pipe, but some underground pipes may be broken, allowing groundwater to enter. Some areas in Mt. Vernon experience high groundwater when flood irrigation takes place outside of town, but the problem is still under investigation.
The first phase of the project also will include replacing influent flow meters and control valves between the treatment plant’s four cells. The facility, which was initially constructed in 1979, was designed to discharge effluent into the John Day River, but the plant never discharged into the river because lagoon seepage and evaporation rates exceeded influent flow volume, according to the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality.
The city submitted a report on groundwater effects by the sewage system in 2005, and DEQ evaluated the city’s wastewater permit in 2009 and 2011. DEQ reported in 2011 that leakage into groundwater “was in the normal range for bentonite-lined lagoons and that the John Day River and groundwater was not impacted.” DEQ concluded in 2011 that “no further groundwater investigation is required by the proposed permit.”
Since then, however, lagoon leakage has worsened, according to a Business Oregon press release announcing the Community Development Block Grant award to Mt. Vernon in November 2016. Tests found that “the lagoons may be leaking with subsurface flow to the river even though the city does not indicate that discharge is happening,” Business Oregon reported.
Kowing said the current sewer project will focus on inflow and infiltration, but a later project will look at the sewage lagoons themselves.
Mt. Vernon’s 60-year-old city park will get a much-needed face-lift thanks to a $162,000 grant from the Oregon Parks and Recreation Department.
The city will provide a $43,000 match in the form of volunteer hours and equipment and money from the city’s Street, Sewer and Water funds, bringing the total cost to rehabilitate Phil Boyd Memorial Park to more than $200,000.
It was a competitive grant, Kowing told the Eagle, and she traveled to Salem to present the city’s application. Mt. Vernon ended up ranked fifth out of 15 Oregon communities vying for $4.5 million in money from the Oregon Lottery.
Kowing explained in the city’s application that Phil Boyd Memorial Park “is one of the first sights that travelers see when entering Mt. Vernon from the east.” She said the park was “in desperate need of rehabilitating” and hadn’t seen renovations to its playground equipment in 60 years. The park “is beyond its normal life expectancy” and did not meet health and safety code requirements, she said.
The city surveyed residents to gather suggestions and park usage information, and the city’s parks committee is still determining how to spend the grant money, Kowing said.
Two thousand or more visitors use Phil Boyd Memorial Park through the year, including for events like the Cinnabar Mountain Rendezvous, Mt. Vernon Rural Fire Department Easter Egg Hunt, birthday parties, weddings, family reunions, picnics and class reunions. It also serves as a rest stop for tourists, Kowing said.
The 1.47-acre park includes a basketball court, tennis court, horseshoe pits, gazebo, ADA-approved restrooms, barbecue pits, playground equipment and open space with trees and bushes.
The city plans to install additional lighting and receptacles, upgrade the stairway on the highway side of the park, relocate the horseshoe pits and install new picnic benches, a flag pole and a drinking fountain. The big ticket items include $13,000 for automated underground sprinklers, $22,000 for drainage and $141,476 for new playground equipment.
“Most of the money will pay for the new playground equipment,” Kowing told the Eagle.
The older metal playground equipment will be replaced with natural-looking plastic that will last longer and not be hot to the touch in summer. The city typically spends about $25,000 per year to maintain the park. The new LED lighting and irrigation system will reduce water and power usage, Kowing said.
“The city takes pride in the upkeep of our city park and will continue to keep up our excellent maintenance record,” Kowing said.