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The new Bertha; Town infrastructure under-goes major changes

The city of Bertha recently saw the construction of a brand new water tower, but that's only part of the story. The water tower is just one facet of an $8 million renovation project meant to modernize almost all of Bertha's public works. The roads, water mains, sidewalks and sewage treatment sys-tems have either been replaced or will be replaced in the near future.

"We're about 80 percent complet-ed," said Adam Templin, Bertha pub-lic works director.

Templin said all the water and sewer mains are done, but the water tower still needs to be painted and the new roads given their last layer of sur-facing. Templin also said the entire project will be completed in fall of next year.

Bertha Mayor Dean Klebs said a major factor that inspired the city to go through with the massive overhaul was the problems with groundwater infiltrating the sewage system. Klebs said the leaks had vexed Bertha city leaders since 1981, and it had gotten to the point where the sewage system was so overwhelmed with excess wa-ter that the friendly bacteria intended to break down human waste as part of the sewage treatment process couldn't do its job adequately any longer. As a result, Klebs said, po-tentially unsafe water could have been released into nearby Bear Creek, and the city risked being fined by the Pollution Control Agency.

"I can assure you (that) somewhere between here and the Gulf of Mexico, somebody would be using our untreated water," Klebs said.

To fix the sewage treatment prob-lem, Bertha has built three new en-closed lagoons that will replace the digester and clarifier currently being used to treat sewage, Klebs said.

Templin said in addition to the malfunctioning sewage system, the city had infrastructure problems that ranged from water mains that were too narrow to sidewalks that didn't adhere to the Americans with Disabilities Act. The new renovation project has fixed it all, Templin said.

"The town of Bertha is very fortu-nate to be able do this because now they'll be in tremendous shape for many years to come," Templin said.

Klebs said a significant portion of the funding for the project came from grants provided by organizations like the United States Department of Agri-culture and the Minnesota Department of Economic Development. However, the city of Bertha had to pay approximately $250,000 up front, as well as take out a 30-year loan of about $3.7 million.

Just one of the visible benefits the people of Bertha will receive for that money is increased water pressure and quality, Klebs said. As an example, he said the water in his own home in Ber-tha had improved drastically.

"We've always had some discolor-ation, some of the brown color," Klebs said. "(Now) we have absolutely pure water, and no one in town has com-plained since this project has gone online."

Also enthusiastic about the renova-tion was Joeb Oyster, Bertha city en-gineer.

"It's a huge improvement, as far as sewer and water quality and treat-ment," he said.

Oyster said his firm, Moore Engi-neering, had planned the project for years before handing their designs to four different construction companies to build the various new systems. Come next fall, their efforts will final-ly be complete, and the new Bertha will finally be ready for its citizens to enjoy.