Borough approves final funding and contract to start work at water treatment plant

After seven years of planning, the borough has accumulated the funds it needs to upgrade its water treatment plant and is preparing to move forward with the work.

At its Oct. 10 meeting, the assembly approved a $1.961 million loan from the U.S. Department of Agriculture, fully funding the project. Then, it approved a $19.605 million contract with Sitka-based McG Constructors to perform the upgrades.

The project, which will run over $23 million after factoring in design, inspection and administrative costs, is intended to improve the plant’s water quality and output, readying the community for potential population growth in the future.

The updated plant will do away with the current manual chemical dosing system, which inevitably causes shifts in the water’s chemical levels throughout the day as the community’s demand for water fluctuates. “There should be less instances of ever tasing chlorine in your water,” particularly in the early morning, explained Public Works Director Tom Wetor in a previous interview.

The plant will also use “dissolved air floatation” to remove impurities — a process that sends streams of bubbles through the water to attach to solids and float them to the surface, where they can be removed.

Finally, the plant’s output could increase as much as threefold, from its present average flow rate of 750,000 gallons per day. In addition to any other future growth in water demand, this will prepare the plant for the upcoming development of the Alder Top Village (Keishangita.’aan) subdivision, which will eventually bring up to 42 new residential lots to the community.

Funding for the project is composed of seven different sources, including the U.S. Department of Agriculture, U.S. Economic Development Administration and federal and state pandemic funds. Just over $9 million of the project will be covered through loans, including the recent USDA loan. Over $13 million is funded through grants.

The borough’s water fund contributed only $119,000 — the smallest portion of the total funding. Water fund revenues will be used to pay off the recent loan over the next 40 years; if these revenues are insufficient, the borough will pay it off using its savings.

Borough staff were hoping to take out fewer loans and had received encouragement from the USDA to apply for additional grant money, but their application was denied unexpectedly. “Just based off the timing …. they were out of grant money completely,” explained Borough Manager Jeff Good at the Oct. 10 meeting. The borough may be able to use congressionally directed spending toward some of its loan payments, he added.

Construction can begin “as soon as we get a contract in place,” said capital facilities director Amber Al-Haddad.


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