Oak Creek receives boost with a big, fat check | SteamboatToday.com

Oak Creek receives boost with a big, fat check

Two grants, loan provided to fund wastewater treatment plant, replacement pipes

— A town struggling with finances got a $3.2 million boost Monday.

During a ceremony at Decker Park in Oak Creek, town Mayor Kathy “Cargo” Rodeman received a large, cardboard “check” representing $3.2 million the town has received to fund construction of a new wastewater treatment plant and nearly 27,000 feet of replacement sewer pipes.

“It’s not hard to smile today,” Rodeman said at a lunchtime ceremony that included catering and flowers from numerous local businesses. More than 40 people attended the event.

The money is a combination of two grants and a loan. A grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Rural Development division for $1,524,000, along with a grant from the Colorado Department of Local Affairs for $498,697, makes a total of more than $2 million in gifted grant money.

The town will augment that with a $1.2 million loan from the USDA, to be paid off in annual installments of about $64,000.

Rodeman and Oak Creek officials are trimming town spending to restore the town’s general fund, which collects revenue primarily from sales and property taxes and has operated at a loss for several years, according to town budget documents. But the town’s enterprise fund, which collects revenue from fees for water, sewer, electric and trash services, is self-sustaining.

Loan payments will come from Oak Creek’s enterprise fund. A USDA official said she was happy to issue the sizeable loan.

“In discussions with Cargo (Rodeman), we feel that (Oak Creek) revenues will be able to make the payments,” said April Dahlager, rural development loan specialist for the USDA.

“When we plugged all the numbers in, that’s what we came up with. And we have the funding available, so we’re happy to do it. That’s part of the reason why the grant is so large.”

Michael Bennett, director of the state department of the USDA Rural Development division, said Monday that it is unusual for a grant to be larger than its accompanying loan.

“Not many of our communities get a grant this size,” Bennett said. “But this is something that can really help this community.”

The Colorado Department of Health and Environment mandated the wastewater project in 2001, Rodeman said. She was first elected mayor in 2002, and did not learn of the mandate until 2004.

Rodeman secured an extension and grants for the project, a process that culminated Monday.

Applying for the grants required giving the USDA access to town budgets and all manner of financial data, a scrutiny that Rodeman said should reassure people who doubt Oak Creek’s finances.

“There’s nothing that they don’t look at,” she said. “Do (people) really think that if we were broke, this kind of money would be coming in from a federal agency?”

The Carter Burgess engineering firm is scheduled to begin construction of the treatment plant in spring 2007.

Rodeman said the project is expected to take about two years to complete, although the treatment plant should be done within a year.

Rodeman said Oak Creek residents are encouraged to have professionals examine the wastewater laterals that connect their homes to the town’s collection pipes. Rodeman said residents will be responsible for the cost of repairing their own sewer pipes.

The McCoy-based company Freedom Sewer & Drain is offering special group rates to Oak Creek residents for video inspection of the pipes and consultations about replacement. Call toll free: 1-888-736-8588.

To reach Mike Lawrence, call 871-4203 or e-mail mlawrence@steamboatpilot.com.

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