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Commission states support for Elk City utility work

Water, sewer system project estimate: $4M

— Idaho County Commissioners Mark Frei and Jim Chmelik both stated support for an upcoming effort to modernize Elk City’s 50-year-old water and sewer system, which is expected to cost $4 million with funding to involve a $500,000 Idaho Department of Commerce block grant, state and federal loans and a $2.5 million USDA Rural Development grant. The block grant application is to be postmarked by Nov. 18, grant writer Walter Steed told the board during a public hearing Oct. 18, and a decision will follow next spring.

“What does it do to the schedule if you don’t get it this go-around?” commissioner Skip Brandt asked.

“It all slides,” Steed said. “There’s no fall-back to it. It’s not an ‘if we don’t get it we’re going to do it anyway.’ Because Rural Development is really pushing it with a $2.5 million grant to go into that community. They have lately really opened the floodgates on grant money. … It’s really changed during the several years I’ve been doing this, in that you’re sitting around the table with Rural Development and you’re saying ‘We just can’t do it, we need another million dollars’ and they kind of roll their eyes at you and say ‘We can do that.’”

Steed explained the need for the work as follows: “This project came about because the Elk City sewer system is a 50-year-old system that needs a lot of work. The manholes, the lines are taking a lot of infiltration, a lot of inflow. It’s flooding the lagoons. It gets worse from there because that lagoon in the 1960s was built in the waterway of Elk Creek. They rechanneled Elk Creek to put the lagoons in – probably something you couldn’t do today. But they did do it. But the problem is it puts the lagoons in the floodway, which creates more problems. The EPA and the DEQ are looking at it and have got a compliance schedule from the Elk City Water & Sewer Association to have either more stringent treatment limits or get out of that creek.”

The commission’s support is required for the $500,000 block grant, which – if it comes – will come through the Idaho Department of Commerce.

“I’m going to support this,” Chmelik said, “but it’s a shame we sit on billions of dollars in natural resources, and the ability to develop them could be paying for them and creating good jobs and we have to keep going down this route.”

Speaking in support of the grant, Frei remarked to the effect that the existing water system was constructed during an era of rural economic prosperity that has faded during an era of intrusive regulation; Steed said he was unsure how the existing system was paid for.


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