More than $800 million. That’s what a study released in 2003 by WCI indicated it would take to upgrade the aging water, wastewater and storm water systems in west central Minnesota communities over the next 20 years.
"Many of the systems were built in the 1930s with an estimated design life of about 50 years," said WCI President Nancy Straw. "Communities are living on borrowed time."
WCI is currently conducting an infrastructure pilot project as a follow-up to the 2003 infrastructure study. The cities of Battle Lake, Brandon and Ottertail have agreed to participate in the new study.
WCI has contracted with Yellow Wood Associates, Inc., an independent firm from Vermont, to conduct an inventory and assessment of the communities’ infrastructure. The engineering firms of Widseth Smith Nolting and Interstate Engineering will also be an integral part of this project and will work closely with Yellow Wood. The project is expected to be completed by mid-2008.
The three municipalities will receive individualized reports that will include options for alternative approaches to water, wastewater and storm water issues.
WCI will post the outline of the process on its Web site to share with other communities that are reviewing their infrastructure systems.
"Yellow Wood is helping us plan for the future—20 to 30 years down the road," said Lee Sherman, city coordinator for Ottertail. "They are environmentally concerned about things like storm water run-off. Also, we have [city] water but we don’t have a sewer and we need to plan for that."
"This is a tremendous opportunity for us to be a part of this study and take advantage of what Yellow Wood has to offer," he said.
Battle Lake clerk-treasurer Wanda Berg-Vorgert agrees. "Battle Lake is excited about the pilot project and helping create a template for other towns to use," she said.
"We are one city among many that struggle with infrastructure. It’s hard to be a town of under 1,000 and be looking at a multi-million dollar project. It’s scary. I think this template is going to be helpful for so many communities," Berg-Vorgert said.
Yellow Wood recently spent a day in each community to meet with city officials, tour the city and learn more about each town’s particular goals and issues.
"They’re great people, very knowledgeable and intuitive," Berg-Vorgert said of the Yellow Wood team. "It’s such an advantage to be able to pick the brains of people of this caliber. We’re anticipating new and novel approaches to infrastructure."
Read the 2003 infrastructure study.