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City awarded $1 million grant for wastewater treatment plant upgrades

A $1 million grant for improving the Sunnyside wastewater treatment plant has been adopted as a part of the Omnibus Appropriations funding measure.

Republicans and Democrats joined to break a filibuster and approve the final appropriations measure for the fiscal year, which began almost four months ago. The measure has since been signed by President George W. Bush.

Washington Sen. Patty Murray was among the lawmakers that voted in favor of the measure.

"Like many, I had serious reservations about several provisions in the omnibus appropriations bill. The fight to overturn the attack on overtime and other issues is not over. But I know what's at stake here and it is time to move on," said Murray, a senior member of the Appropriations Committee. "I voted to fund our federal responsibility to education, health care, job training and veterans. And I vote to help our state as it seeks to move forward with job creation and economic development."

The funds that Sunnyside will be receiving is the largest amount going to a single Washington community. The funds were sought by former city manager Dave Fonfara.

"It will be used for the wastewater treatment plant upgrade," said Sunnyside City Engineer Jim Bridges. "It determines the amount we need to borrow."

Currently, the project is estimated to cost $12.3 million, which will pay for the complete project from design through construction.

The project is expected to be completed by 2007.

According to Bridges, the grant, which is money that doesn't have to be paid back, will assist in lowering the amount of money the city of Sunnyside will have to borrow in the form of a loan.

Borrowing less money will help moderate rate increases for low-income wastewater users, according to Murray.

The money will be used to bring the wastewater treatment plant up to compliance with federal water quality standards. Bridges said it will include the addition of an activated sludge basin, upgrades to the primary clarifiers and adding a redundancy system, which would make it so the city wouldn't be out of compliance if there is a problem with the wastewater treatment plant.

The $12 million will also pay for upgrades to miscellaneous equipment, such as pumps.

Currently, the city's waiting on approval of an $800,000 loan though the Public Works Trust Fund, said Bridges. The city is also applying for a loan from the state Department of Ecology revolving fund. The loan is for 100 percent of the project.

"We don't have to accept either loan," said Bridges, adding that the city can also continue to seek other grants though the wastewater renovation process.

With the loans, the earliest the money would be available is July, but Bridges said he hopes the federal grant funding will be available sooner.

The $1 million could accelerate the project and a consultant could be hired sooner than July with the money.

Bridges said the city will have to hire a consultant to complete the design work for the project.

"I'm already in the process of completing the environmental documents for the federal funding," said Bridges, a requirement for the funding.

Other projects funded under the Omnibus Appropriations bill are the Walter Clore Wine and Culinary Center in Prosser, which received $250,000. Also, funds ($200,000) were provided to renovate a home for pregnant teens in the Tri Cities and $2 million was set aside for the state methamphetamine program.

. Melissa Browning can be contacted at (509) 837-4500, or e-mail mbrowning@eaglenewspapers.com

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