VERNDALE - New water infrastructure in Verndale is getting a helping hand from the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA).

The city of Verndale will use a $261,000 loan and a $237,000 grant to construct new municipal water infrastructure. The investment will be used to build a new water tower to increase storage capacity and install meters for increased efficiency, according to a USDA news release. Routine maintenance of the new tower will prevent a costly rehabilitation and provide decades of reliable water pressure.

Verndale City Clerk/Treasurer Melissa Current said the water tower project should be fully funded with the funding from USDA Rural Development and the DEED Small Cities Development Grant. Original estimates were for a larger 75,000 gallon reservoir with a cost of just over $1 million.

The water tower project is a separate project from the water treatment plant, which is currently under construction at 309 Mason Ave E (along Highway 10). Completion of this project is estimated to be March 24, 2020. Meanwhile, bids for the water tower project should be going out in January 2020. The location of the new water tower will be 19 Third Ave SW.

The City is waiting to hear back from the State Historical Preservation Society (SHPO) as to whether there is any historical significance to the old tower, which was erected in 1948, according to Current.

USDA is funding the projects through the Water and Waste Disposal Loan and Grant program. Eligible applicants include rural cities, towns and water districts. The funds can be used for drinking water, stormwater drainage and waste disposal systems in rural communities that meet population limits.

U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Rural Development State Director for Minnesota Brad Finstad announced the funding last week as part of $13.2 million in investments to improve water and wastewater infrastructure in five rural communities.

The city was also awarded a $600,000 Minnesota DEED grant in July 2018 that is part of the Community Development Block Grant Program administered by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, funded by Congress. Those funds are also to be used towards the city's water infrastructure.

Why new water infrastructure?

The City of Verndale was notified in May of 2017 that the nitrate levels in their No. 1 well exceeded the maximum contaminant level. In order to fix this, that well needed to be shut down; leaving the city with one operating well. The city is required to have two wells, so the city was left with trying to find a location for well No. 3 and risk the chance that nitrates would go high in well No. 2, or to build a water treatment plant that can filter out the nitrates. The water treatment plant will be using a reverse osmosis system to accomplish this. Another benefit to reverse osmosis is that the water will be softer so residents won’t need to have water softener’s anymore. The city is required to adjust its user rates to $54 per user to cover added costs.