G.I. Council Approves Loan That Could Bring Multi-Million Doll - KHGI-TV/KWNB-TV/KHGI-CD-Grand Island, Kearney, Hastings

G.I. Council Approves Loan That Could Bring Multi-Million Dollar Savings

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Multi-million dollar savings are expected after a vote from the Grand Island City Council Tuesday.

They approved a resolution that will move forward with a state loan to help fund the city's ongoing wastewater upgrades.

The loan from the Nebraska Department of Environment Quality has a much lower interest rate than originally budgeted. It could be as low as a 2.25 percent when used on "green" projects.

Officials said 11 out 15 of the projects being funded by the loan would be.

That includes getting rid of several lift stations.

"The lift stations, in my opinion, are a liability," said Marvin Strong, Wastewater Plant engineer. "They're a potential source for hydrogen sulfide, and hydrogen sulfide is corrosive. It has the ability to eat the inside of pipe, concrete pipe, concrete manholes."

A Clean Water State Revolving Fund loan could be the answer.

Strong said it cuts the interest rates planned for the next phase of the department's infrastructure overhaul by about half.

That projected $8.5 million savings could pay to shut down eight more lift stations.

Strong said that could save even more money -- around $446,000 a year with reduced maintenance and replacement costs.

"It's a win/win situation. That's money we won't have to spend at some point down the road and it's money we're going to save today," said Strong.

But, one citizen at Tuesday's public hearing said he's against the project.

"Grand Island is too flat for gravity control sewer," he told the council.

G.I.'s Public Works Director John Collins says that's not true. Collins told the council that lift stations were mostly needed because of poor engineering in the past. He said the upgrades will solve that.

With a unanimous vote, the city council agreed to fund it with the SRF loan. Officials estimate the city will need to borrow about $37 million from the NDEQ for the project.

Other funding will come from revenue bonds.

"The projects you can get done now, in a shorter time frame and just throw more in there is just good for us overall," said Councilman Mitch Nickerson.

By approving the measure, the council also voted to increase the amount of debt allowed for this project from $60 million to a little more than $74 million.

The latest part of the project -- "North Interceptor Phase 2" -- is estimated to cost $17.2 million.

An ordinance is expected to be brought before council on July 22 that could enter Grand Island in a loan contract with the NDEQ.
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