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Akeley to seek funding for upgraded water system


The Akeley Council, meeting in a work session this week, has determined upgrades to the city’s water system are a priority and funding will be sought.

The council also agreed a survey will be sent to business and residential property owners to determine interest in seeking financing for improvements to structures through HUD and other funding sources.

Short Elliott Hendrickson consultants Jeff Ledin, an engineer, and Heidi Peper, senior community development specialist, arrived to discuss drafting a capital improvement plan, the council agreeing the city’s water infrastructure is in dire need of attention.

Both consultants recommended compiling a plan and seeking funding, rather than reacting to problems on a need basis.

The water plant needs upgrades, clerk-treasurer Sebrina Hegg said of the system that dates back to the 1960s, parts no longer available. The wastewater treatment system is “relatively new,” she said. “But we’re nursing it.”

She pointed out not everyone in the city has municipal water and sewer. Another lift station may be needed for properties too low for the current system.

“It’s fundable and the need is there,” Ledin said of water system upgrades, estimating a cost of $30,000 for the water system’s control panel and filters. The pumps are also in need of upgrades.

The project can be done in phases, but it’s best to “go for the whole project,” Peper said of the planning process. “Leverage as much as you can.” She indicated Rural Development can determine how much the city can afford and the remainder is grant-eligible.

“We know you can’t afford to spend much,” Ledin said.

“Taking on more debt would be very difficult at this point,” mayor Jerry Tatro said. The city’s outstanding debt is approximately $725,000. “We’d be skinned and drug out of town if we raised taxes,” he said.

Peper said a project priority list could be drafted by the deadline of May 3. The city would learn in August if it’s in the “fundable range.” She said SEH will look at multiple funding sources and develop a package.

This may allow the city to consolidate debts, Ledin said.

The council also discussed owner/renter occupied financing that’s available through HUD. Financing is pro-rated based on income. An 80 percent median income range is eligible for up to 80 percent grant funding, Peper said.

A survey will be sent to city residents in the near future to determine interest. Questions will include the number of people in the home, the number below 6 years of age, median income, age of the home, if it’s owned or rented and interest level if grants are available.

This information would not be available to city officials. The council would see a general overview but not individual results. SEH would review this to determine financing strategy.