Albert Lea city council discusses wastewater treatment plant cost increase

(ABC 6 News) – City leaders in Albert Lea are telling lawmakers up at the state capitol to get their act together.

Lack of action in St. Paul means the city could be stuck with a massive bill to replace the Albert Lea’s wastewater treatment plant.

This project was projected to cost $60 million last year and now with inflation, the project is expected to cost nearly $73 million.

Monday evening, the council heard that without the passing of a bonding bill, there is no funding yet for this project that needs to get underway sooner rather than later.

“This is the one thing in all of the 18 years of doing this i’m scared of. This makes a big difference to us. We’re high user for our food industries. They need good water and sewer,” Mayor Vern Rasmussen Jr. said.

Back in August, the council was asking Governor Tim Walz for a special session to get 30 million dollars in state funding. That never happened.

RELATED: City of Albert Lea, local legislators working to upgrade wastewater treatment plant

Now, the Albert Lea city council is stuck between deciding if the city should pay for the nearly $73 million project or to wait for potential funding.

Luckily, there are some pieces of the project that can be looked at right now and could get underway.

“There’s some pieces that we can look at right now and try to help further the life of some of the existing structures that we have so that we can make it down the road. We do have 10 years to get this process done so we’ll be looking at the legislature for their direction moving forward,”
Rasmussen explained.

But the biggest issue right now that is concerning council members like Jason Howland, is the money potentially having to come out of residents’ pockets.

“How much is that going to increase their water sewer bill? Is it 10 times? 20 times? I’d like to know what that number is because i think that would really stress the importance to our legislators that look, this needs to be done and we need the help and you need to get your act together,” Howland said.

Mayor Rasmussen said he is hoping for funding sooner rather than later, hopefully in 2023 or 2024. And he says inflation is only going to increase.

Plus, Albert Lea isn’t the only community facing this issue. Austin is also experiencing a hike in its price on the wastewater treatment plant project.

“It’s going to happen to every community in our state, so it’s really something that the state of Minnesota has to take on as an initiative to help all of these communities move forward,” Rasmussen said.

Mayor Rasmussen is urging Albert Lea citizens to get involved and talk to their legislators about getting funding. He says the more people that express concern over this issue, lawmakers are more likely to do something about it.