ST. PAUL – Watkins residents got a much needed boost last week when the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission (PUC) announced that it will raise the priority of the city’s water and sewer infrastructure replacement plan, which improves its chances for state funding.
The Watkins plan will leap 98 spots to become the number eight highest priority water and infrastructure project in Minnesota. State Representative Dean Urdahl, R-Grove City, said the higher ranking will improve the odds of attaining state money to fund the project.
“I think the new ranking will show legislators how important it is to fund this project,” Urdahl said. “Bonding money will help diminish the property tax increase the city fears will be necessary if the entire cost is placed upon Watkins residents.”
Watkins mayor Jim Loch and city administrator Lynn Hokanson testified at the Capitol on Wednesday, making their case for the project to members of the House and Senate economic development committees. The city is asking for just over $7.1 million in bonding from this year’s bonding bill – which would cover the full cost of the project - but Urdahl said that amount could change over the course of the session.
“Depending on what other types of funding come through in the way of grants or low-interest loans, the bonding request could go up or down. Senator Dille and I will continue working in our respective bonding committees to see that the people of Watkins get the help they need,” Urdahl said.
The City of Watkins is considering a plan to replace its water and sanitary sewer lines, upgrading the faltering pipes made of clay and cast iron with more modern PVC pipes, which have less tendency to rupture. PVC also helps maintain better water quality.
Without the bonding or other help, the City could be faced with a decision to increase the local levy and special assessments to each property. The City estimates this would cost a $90,000 home on a 100 foot lot an increase of $1,292 in property taxes per year.
The Legislature is expected to debate the bonding bill in March and pass it in mid-April.