ELKINS - A project more than 10 years in the making is now one step closer to fruition for the city of Elkins.
The federal Rural Utility Service has given the city permission to begin taking bids for construction of the new water treatment plant and distribution system upgrades.
"Permission from the RUS was a big step," Elkins Operations Manager Bob Pingley said this week. "We have been working hard to get that."
Even with the RUS approval, there is still more work to do before construction can begin. RUS is providing $15.5 million of the funding for the $31 million project, but the city still needs to obtain approval to go to bid from the West Virginia Infrastructure and Jobs Development Council (IJDC), the source of the remaining $15.5 million for the project.
"We are working on getting their (IJDC) approval," Pingley said. "There shouldn't be a problem. We are hoping to go to bid by this fall."
Pingley said the project was originally to have been completely funded by RUS with American Recovery and Reinvestment monies. However, stipulations on when that money had to be spent caused the city to seek other funding sources. Pingley said being approved for IJDC funds helped the city save money in the long term because of better interest rates.
"We cut back on some of the distribution work to bring the project within budget," he said. "I hope the bids come in a little lower. Having to get more funding would cause a lot of problems."
With the project going out to bid in the fall, the city hopes construction will begin by spring of 2015, Pingley said.
Once the bids are opened there is a 90-day holding period to allow time for the funding sources to close and the money to be distributed.
Pingley said construction for the project could take several years.
"I am certain it will take the better part of two years to complete the plant," he said. "There is going to be a lot of activity when construction starts. There will be a lot of torn-up streets."
Pingley said the city is planning to host a public meeting once the bidders are identified, in order to help inform residents about the project.
"We want everyone to know as much as they can about what is going to happen," Pingley said. "If residents have concerns, I would like the contractors to be there to answer questions."
Pingley said he is excited to see progress made on the water plant project, which began before he started his tenure with the city six years ago.
"We at the city worry about the old plant," he said. "It has done a wonderful job, but it is close to 100 years old and we don't have a back-up. You can't just call up a supplier and get replacement parts."