John Day projects update

The John Day Innovation Gateway.

When completed, John Day’s new wastewater treatment plant could be the largest project in Grant County history — perhaps twice the cost of the Grant County Regional Airport, City Manager Nick Green told the John Day City Council at their May 22 meeting.

The project would be a big lift for the local economy, and the 70-year-old plant located close to the John Day River needs to be replaced, Green said. But according to results of a recent income survey conducted to see if the city would be eligible for a federal grant, the local community cannot afford to pay for the plant, he said.

Combining the $750,000 in the city’s wastewater reserve fund with a $2 million federal grant and a $2.5 million federal loan would only get the city halfway to the final cost of the plant, Green told the council.

Green said he will travel to Pendleton June 21 to meet with the state’s Infrastructure Finance Authority about how to pay for the new treatment plant, but he expects to come away with a gap that the city will need to fill.

Representatives from the Anderson Perry engineering firm and Sustainable Water of Richmond, Virginia, will attend the council’s June 26 meeting for a review of the updated facilities plan.

Green noted that the city needs to have financing in place or it can’t go forward — and whatever the city builds must last another 70 years. Mayor Ron Lundbom added that other Oregon cities will want to copy John Day’s innovative greenhouse approach to wastewater treatment. Councilor Paul Smith concurred, noting that the legislature and the governor should recognize that this was the wave of the future and give the city its support.

One option for filling the financial gap is to turn to the private sector, Green told the council. Ordinarily the private sector won’t finance a municipal wastewater treatment plant, but John Day’s would be unique — it would produce Class A reclaimed water, something that might attract private investors. Green also noted that the Trump administration had said it would support infrastructure projects, but details were still lacking.

Green updated the council on other city projects:

• The greenhouse project that will use city water to produce vegetables for human consumption was set back about 30 days after the city received no compliant bids for its requests for proposals, Green said. The first harvest is expected to take place later this year.

The greenhouse designers were unable to find a local builder, so the city may have to take over the general contractor role and subcontract portions of the construction project, Green said.

• Green said he was able to submit a lengthy and complex application for up to $3 million in funds to improve local internet service through a U.S. Department of Agriculture Community Connect grant, but insufficient bandwidth locally made things difficult. He called the situation ironic.

The grant will be used to pay for extending internet service south from Canyon City to Seneca. Green said the city will learn if it’s on the short list in a few months, at which point federal personnel will come to Grant County to conduct speed tests and review local conditions.

• The consultants who will be involved in planning the Innovation Gateway project using a state Transportation Growth Management grant have been selected. They include DKS Associates, transportation planners in Salem; Walker Macy, a landscape architect firm in Portland; JLA Public Involvement, a communications firm in Portland; Inter-Fluve, a river restoration firm in Hood River; Angelo Planning Group, a community planning firm in Portland; KPFF Consulting Engineers of Portland; and John Southgate Consulting, a municipal financing firm in Portland.

The city is preparing an application for a grant through the Oregon Department of Parks and Recreation for improvements to numerous existing trails along the John Day River that will connect to the Innovation Gateway site. John Day Senior Project Manager Aaron Lieuallen said the entire trails project could cost about $240,000.

• The John Day City Council will hold a hearing on the city’s urban renewal plan at their June 12 meeting. The city hopes providing a 7 percent rebate and waiving system connection fees will encourage construction of 100 homes over 20 years.

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