April 19th, 2017
Grand Forks' new water treatment plant has gone from a hole in the ground to a forest of towering metal piles in the span of a few months, as crews press ahead on a project expected to begin sending water to local faucets by 2020.
The project officially broke ground in November, and work on the site was underway before the end of the year. On Monday, city Water Works Director Melanie Parvey gave City Council members an update on the project, complete with an aerial drone video of construction. All piles-about 700 of them-have been driven, with underground piping and a concrete foundation coming next.
"It's quite a lengthy project to watch being built-just the fact of how large it is. It's almost the size of a football field, and the amount of piping and foundation work just takes time," Parvey said Tuesday. "The biggest challenge right now is getting the contractors to be able to work where they need to without bumping into each other, and that's a good challenge to have."
Development comes while details on project funding is being settled. While the project is estimated to cost more than $150 million, earlier estimates had it closer to $130 million—and though city leaders had hoped the state would pick up half the price of the plant, those cost increases place such math in doubt.
So far, the city has received $35 million in state funding for the project, and another $30 million is currently being considered in conference committee after different versions of a bill awarding the money were passed by the state House and Senate. Rep. Corey Mock, D-Grand Forks, said that "it's difficult to say" if the state will be able to fund more given North Dakota's economic and budgetary woes.
"We'll have to see where the project is when we come back to the next legislative session," he said.
The plant is interconnected with many of the city's high-profile projects. Construction costs are a key reason why water rates have increased-with hikes of 9 percent already implemented, and more potentially on the way-and it could draw funding from a future city sales tax measure that local leaders have yet to draft. And once the new plant is online, it will replace the city's current water treatment plant near the Point Bridge, opening space for new downtown development.
Regardless of the funding source, the project is a go, with City Council member Ken Vein saying that "there's no turning back" when asked about funding in February.
City Administrator Todd Feland added that council members are expected to start delving into funding matters as soon as early May.