$9M in grants to offset city debt on wastewater treatment plant

St. Francis has received long-awaited grant confirmations from the Minnesota Public Facilities Authority for the city’s wastewater treatment plant.

The city has received a $1.97 million Water Infrastructure Fund grant and a Point Source Implementation grant of $7 million. These grants will draw down the treatment plant loan to $16 million from the original cost of $24.98 million.

City Administrator Joe Kohlmann and other city staff, as well as former mayor Steve Kane had begun work on securing these grants in 2016, contacting the MPFA as well as legislative representatives by phone and in person, with the goal of securing available funding to bring down the final cost of the treatment plant.

When the grants were not made in the 2016 legislative session, the city issued temporary bonds to maintain eligibility with a Public Facilities Authority loan balance and be in line for the grants during the 2017 session.

The work to obtain the grants continued with city staff and recently elected Mayor Steve Feldman. After the 2017 legislative funding approval, council voted unanimously to enter into the agreement with the authority for the grants and a restructuring of the treatment plant loan.

While the grants will help, they were already planned for, said Darcy Mulvihill, financial director for the city of St. Francis.

“These grants officially lower the loan to $16 million, but the current water rates were set using this amount so there will not likely be any rate changes for now,” Mulvihill said.

What can change the rates are increases in city development, such as housing, business and commercial developments where water and sewer services are needed.

Feldman is working to find options that would lower water rates for city residents.

“Once we receive the money in hand we will do a water rate study,” he said.

Council Member Robert Bauer echoed the mayor’s statement.

“Let’s get the rate study done to hopefully give a lower rate to our citizens,” Bauer said.