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Jasinski authors bonding bill for joint wastewater plant

wastewater hearing, owatonna, jasinski
Owatonna City Administrator Kris Busse testifies Thursday at the Minnesota Senate’s Capital Investment Committee in St. Paul. Sen. John Jasinski, who authored the bill for a regional wastewater treatment plant for both Owatonna and Medford, is shown at the left of Busse. Submitted photo
Rick Bussler, Publisher

A joint wastewater treatment plant for Owatonna and Medford is attracting the attention of state law makers as the proposal will be considered for the upcoming bonding bill.

On Thursday, Sen. John Jasinski, R-Faribault, authored a bill to provide $22 million for a grant to Owatonna for a new wastewater facility. In addition, $4.5 million would go to Medford to demolish its existing wastewater treatment plant and design and build a connection to Owatonna’s new facility.

Along with Jasinski, Owatonna City Administrator Kris Busse and Medford City Engineer Brandon Theobald testified in support of the bill.

“We’re here today to request your support to help fund a regional wastewater solution that will serve Minnesota’s growing southern corridor along I-35,” said Busse. “Cities of Owatonna and Medford have collaborated to address the needs in both areas through a regional solution that can serve as a model for other statewide collaborative efforts demonstrating how to leverage community resources to meet long-term and financial growth needs.”

Bond assistance from the state, Busse said, is needed to ensure the long-term health and viability of both communities. For Owatonna and Medford, the treatment facilities are at the end of their life cycles, which limit capacity for growth in both communities, she said.

Busse testified that by combining the resources of both communities with state bonding dollars, this project will maximize the use of tax dollars through economies of scale, a lower cost per gallon for treatment, better performance or reliability, greater staff efficiencies and reduced permitting, sampling and testing.

“It’s also the most environmentally sound option for our region’s waterways,” said Busse.

She said the bonding bill would meet current and future capacity needs for both communities. It would eliminate the need for Medford to request $18 million in a future bonding request for a standalone facility.

Delaying is not an option, Busse said, noting average user rates are projected to increase by 70% for Owatonna. She added typical user rates for Medford residents are expected to exceed $180 per month per household if they have to construct their own plant.

The $22 million request would cover 31% of the overall $70 million project for Owatonna while the $4.5 million for Medford would pay for 41% of its costs, according to Theobald.

“Adding Medford is very important to this project,” Jasinski said. “Better projects are regionalized, and it is better use of the money.”

Jasinski said, “Clean water is one of the fundamental services that people expect from government, but infrastructure upgrades of this size and scope are hard for a lot of Greater Minnesota communities to manage on their own.”

He added that investing in these important infrastructure projects will help guarantee that folks have safe and reliable water infrastructure for generations to come.

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