NEW ENGLAND — The city of New England has received $5 million in funding to help get its water infrastructure project in the ground.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture announced Friday that it is giving a $2.7 million loan and awarding a $2.2 million grant to the city of about 750 to help improve and replace its water infrastructure. The water pipes and sewer system New England uses now were installed in 1947.
“It’s a tremendous undertaking for the city of New England,” said Mayor Marty Opdahl.
The total cost of the project, which will be done in four phases, is about $17 million. That, Opdahl said, “was too much to bite off at once.”
The city council passed two motions earlier this month, the first to apply for the loan and grant, and the second to name Moore Engineering the project’s facilitators.
The first phase of the project is expected to begin in spring 2015, Opdahl said.
The project will first address the north side of New England, which has the lowest water pressure in the city, as well as areas where fire hydrant flow is inadequate.
“This grant came through a lot faster than we thought,” Opdahl said. “… I’m excited we already have news of that.”
The funding was available through the USDA’s Water and Waste Disposal Direct Loans and Grants Program, which supports the development of water systems in rural areas and towns with less than 10,000 residents. Bill Davis, the deputy director for USDA Rural Development in Bismarck, said New England’s loan has a 40-year term.
“These funds will allow New England to make needed replacements without putting its town’s budget in the red,” Sen. Heidi Heitkamp, D-N.D., stated in a news release.
Rep. Mike Schatz, R-New England, said he was encouraged to hear not only that the city had received the funding, but also where the help is coming from.
“It’s going to make it very affordable for us,” he said. “That’s what has to happen in these small towns. You don’t have that many residents. Even though we have a lot of residents right now — more than we normally do — but still in all, in order to pay for a project of that magnitude, you’re going to have to up taxes a lot. And, you know, a lot of people are on fixed incomes. They’re not able to do that. This is a good thing for us. That’s what it should be for.”
Despite Hettinger County not having any oil wells, New England is only a few miles away from the borders of both Slope and Stark counties — both of which produce oil — and has had its population increase by about 150 to 200 residents in the past three years, city auditor Jason Jung said.
Schatz said he wants to help get New England state funding for the project in the next legislative session.
“We’re in oil country,” Schatz said. “We’re supplying a service here. A lot of the overflow from Dickinson is coming here. It’s good for us, it’s good for them. But we do have to get our infrastructure up to date because if there is a big influx, we’re going to have to be ready.”
A big aspect of the infrastructure project is a new water tower that would be smaller than New England’s current 550,000-gallon tank, Opdahl said. He said New England leaders believe a 150,000-gallon tank would be adequate. The larger tank, located on the north side of the city, will still be available, Opdahl said, but could eventually be used for commercial bulk sales.
“The water tower was inadequately sized,” Opdahl said. “It was actually too large. We have not been able to fill up the water tower without our water going stale. If we could fill it up all the way, that would help our pressure problems immensely around town.”