Saline secures up to $65 million in low-interest government loans for wastewater projects, set to issue bonds

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The City of Saline City has taken a big step towards financing the cost of improvements at its wastewater treatment plant.

Saline City Council voted Nov. 7 in favor of obtaining financing from the Clean Water State Revolving Fund Loan program (CWSRF). The government loan program enables the city to borrow up to $65 million to pay for wastewater treatment projects at a competitive interest rate of 2.125 percent.

“The rates are untouchable,” said City Manager Colleen O’Toole, who added that the resolution before council, whether to publish notice of the city’s intent to issue bonds, was “part of the process” required to secure state dollars for sewer treatment projects.

“This allows us to open up a referendum and allow residents to weigh in,” O’Toole said, adding that the city has digital copies of project plans on its web site.

Once the city publishes its notice of intent to issue the bonds, residents have 45 days to oppose the plan by way of a petition signed by 10 percent of the city’s residents.

The city hopes to use CWSRF dollars to fund a variety of wastewater treatment facility projects, including construction of a new pump station and a biosolids dewatering building. The loan money would also pay for new aeration and equalization tanks, a standby generator and upgrades to its data acquisition technology.

Once in place, the city can use the loans to reimburse itself for wastewater treatment expenditures.

The CWSRF program operates like an environment infrastructure bank and helps municipalities finance pollution-control projects.

The city’s increase in water rates enabled Saline to qualify for the 30-year loan program, O’Toole said after the meeting. The money generated by increased rates will serve as collateral for the debt, she said, adding “I thought we were really lucky to get this.”

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