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Brownton facing up to $12.5 million in improvements over next 25 years

Addressing Brownton’s most critical infrastructure needs could take several years and cost up to $12.5 million, the Brownton City Council heard at a special meeting Tuesday, March 10.
John Rodeberg of Short Elliott Hendrickson (SEH), the city’s engineering firm, presented the City Council with a preliminary engineering report. SEH is preparing the report so the city can qualify for funding from the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) Rural Development program.
Rodeberg said the USDA requires an extensive, comprehensive report for consideration for funding, which may include both grants and low-interest loans.
The city actually has more needs than what will be submitted to the USDA, Rodeberg said, but the city’s auditors and its financial consultant, David Drown Associates, suggested “finding a middle ground — what you can afford,” said Rodeberg.
Rodeberg said SEH looked at all of the city’s needs for the long term, and then prioritized them by the greatest needs.
If the city qualifies for the USDA program, it will still need to levy to repay the loans, “and this could take up your debt capacity for the next 30 to 40 years,” said Rodeberg. “We need to make sure you can continue to operate while paying off your debt.”
Rodeberg said the USDA will provide grant funding for up to 40 percent of the cost to improve the sanitary sewer, but not the storm sewer and water system. The storm sewer and water improvements need to be funded through low-interest loans.
City Clerk Ella Kruse asked if the city could qualify for more grants if it tried again to have residents answer surveys regarding their incomes.
The city’s median income, if low enough, could qualify it for more grants, she added.
A survey attempted by the City Council a couple of years ago found the city to be about a quarter-percent shy of meeting the standards.
Part of that, Kruse indicated, is because some people refused to fill out the survey.
Although the surveys are anonymous, Rodeberg said some people just don’t like giving out their financial information.
Kruse said it might be worth another try if it was explained to residents that qualifying for more grants would help reduce the taxpayer portion of any improvements.
Rodeberg said he would take it up with the SEH staff.

For more, see the March 18 print edition of The Chronicle.