A combination of federal loans and grants will allow the city of Auburn in Logan County to get a much-needed upgrade to its wastewater treatment plant.
Largely to help the city accommodate the needs of the Champion Petfoods plant that opened in 2016 and now has about 200 employees, Auburn is getting a $6.145 million loan and a $2.6 million grant through the U.S. Department of Agriculture Rural Development program.
Auburn is also getting a $1.5 million grant from the U.S. Economic Development Administration and another $1.5 million Community Development Block Grant from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development to pay for the $11.75 million project that Auburn Mayor Mike Hughes said has been in the works for nearly four years.
“This will give us additional capacity for Champion Petfoods and other industries,” Hughes said. “We’re actually building a new facility, but we can still use a portion of the old facility for surge purposes.”
Hughes said building the new plant will increase Auburn’s wastewater treatment capacity from 350,000 gallons per day to 400,000, but he said the city will gain much more than that as it gets a treatment plant with the ability to filter out more materials.
“We’re increasing what we can treat by a large percentage,” the mayor said. “This will be much more efficient.”
Hughes said the city was overdue for a new wastewater treatment plant, explaining that the current plant was built in 1960.
“Champion Petfoods coming on board created the need for more capacity,” he said. “It gets hard to maintain a 60-year-old facility. Usually the life span of a treatment plant is 40 to 50 years.”
The mayor said this project will improve economic development prospects for his city of about 1,460 residents.
He said Auburn was already classified as a “Gig City” because of the efforts of Logan Telephone Cooperative to run high-speed fiber optic cable to provide broadband internet service to all its members.
To help with that effort, Logan Telephone Cooperative last year received a $34.4 million loan from USDA for broadband expansion. Now another USDA loan is helping Auburn further improve its infrastructure.
Hughes said the 40-year loan will have an interest rate not to exceed 2.25 percent and will help the city add to its economic development toolbox.
“The last weak link was our ability to take on more sewer customers,” Hughes said.
The mayor expects construction of the new treatment plant to begin next month and last about 18 months.
– Follow business reporter Don Sergent on Twitter @BGDNbusiness or visit bgdailynews.com.