VERNDALE-The Public Facilities Authority (PFA) announced Feb. 14 that they approved a grant and loan totaling nearly $3.7 million for the construction of a new drinking water treatment plant and other improvements to the drinking water system in Verndale.

"I am grateful for the PFA's willingness to provide these funds so that these vitally important water quality projects can move forward," said Rep. John Poston (R-Lake Shore). "I was proud to support additional funding at the PFA last year which helped to make these grants and loans to cities around Minnesota possible."

According to a release from the PFA, the Verndale project consists of the construction of a new drinking water treatment plant and other improvements to the drinking water system. Funding for this project includes a Drinking Water Revolving Fund (DWRF) loan of $864,462. The 1 percent 20-year-loan is estimated to save taxpayers $148,731 when compared to market-rate financing. The rest of the funding will come from a $444,315 Water Infrastructure Fund (WIF) grant, and a $2,397,100 DWRF principal forgiveness grant.

Verndale City Clerk Barbara Holmes said the funds allow the project to proceed with a pre-construction meeting set for Feb. 21. After that, a lot of snow moving and ground thawing could set up the project to start breaking ground March 1 along Hwy 10 on ground near Verndale Custom Builders.

Holmes said the build consists of two phases. Phase A includes the new well and treatment plant and is being contracted by Eagle Construction of Little Falls. Phase B includes underground pipe installation, and J & J Excavating of Staples is contracted for that work.

The city is required to make these upgrades in order to meet state standards for drinking water. The city's well failed a test with elevated levels of nitrates. Even though those levels have tested lower since then, the city cannot use the same well again, Holmes said. What caused the elevated levels of nitrates could not necessarily be pinpointed, Holmes said.

While the brunt of the $3.7 million project is paid for by these PFA funds, Holmes said the state will tell the city how much they will have to pay for water utilities once this project is complete, likely an additional $10-$15 a month. Holmes added that the increase could be offset by the fact that residents will not have to pay to soften their water as the new system runs water through a softener process.

"That's what we are hoping," Holmes said.

Contracts are set with a schedule outlining that substantial completion is expected by January 2020.