Genesee and Juliaetta residents will vote on multimillion-dollar bonds next month that, if passed by voters, will fund improvements to their water and wastewater systems, respectively.
Genesee residents will cast votes on a 40-year, $3.5 million bond that would help fund the installation of at least two groundwater wells and cover other water system upgrades, according to an ordinance passed by the Genesee City Council in early September.
The project is estimated to cost $4.8 million, which means the remaining $1.3 million could be covered by grants and/or city funds.
The total to be repaid over the maximum 40-year life of the proposed water revenue bonds, including the $3.5 million principal, is about $6.5 million. If the bond passes, Mayor Steve Odenborg said he hopes construction starts in the spring.
Genesee officials in July declared a local disaster emergency and implemented watering restrictions for residents to limit the use of the city’s only active well.
Ryan Rehder, Mountain Waterworks’ Lewiston regional manager, said in July that the city normally operates on two groundwater wells but city officials decided to temporarily deactivate one of the wells in April after the well water’s nitrate level exceeded the federal drinking water standard.
Rehder said the remaining active well — Well 5 — is the smaller of the two wells and does not have enough capacity to meet normal summer water demands.
If Well 5 goes out of service, Rehder said the city could use Well 3 — the one with nitrate level issues — with public notification and bottled water available to residents. Odenborg said residents can use Well 3 for outdoor irrigation. He said Well 5 was installed in 1980 and Well 3 in 1963.
Odenborg said nitrate levels seem to increase during the summer and recede in the other three seasons.
It is “extremely important” that the bond passes Nov. 3, Odenborg said.
Genesee voters approved a $6.2 million bond last November to support wastewater treatment improvements and Genesee and Genesee Rural Fire Protection District voters passed two 10-year bonds totaling $3.2 million in 2017 to fund its new fire station.
Odenborg said he does not want to keep digging into residents’ pockets, but many residents understand the importance of the proposed water bond. He said he and city officials will educate the public on the bond’s details before November’s election.
“I know this is a tough situation to be in, but we got to have water,” Odenborg said. “Communities don’t exist without water.”
Juliaetta residents will vote on a $5.95 million bond Nov. 3 to fund upgrades to its wastewater facility.
A Juliaetta Wastewater Treatment Plant Facility Plan addresses Department of Environmental Quality and Environmental Protection Agency requirements, new permit requirements and future needs, according to the Juliaetta City Council’s Aug. 20 meeting minutes in which the bond election ordinance was approved. It states the wastewater treatment plant is 44 years old, and while it runs well for its age, replacement parts are very difficult to obtain.
“Some of the equipment is undersized for the job being performed, including the plant pump station, plant screening equipment, and plant treatment equipment,” the minutes stated.
Grants; long-term, low-interest loans; and the bond would fund the improvements.
If the bond, other funding sources and the project design is approved, construction could begin as early as March 2022 and would take about 15 months to complete, according to the minutes.
An informational open house about the proposed project is planned for 7 p.m. Monday at the Juliaetta City Hall Annex, 203 Main St., according to a city news release.
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