By Lucas Vader
The Town of Orchard City will resume its monthly town meetings this month to move forward on the large-scale water treatment plant project with an exciting new $1,000,000 DOLA (Department of Local Affairs) grant having recently been awarded to them. In-person meetings will only take place until the board can approve virtual meetings at the town meeting on May 13.
According to Town Administrator Melissa Oelke, all meetings through the month of April were cancelled. Unlike every other Delta County town, Orchard City never declared a state of emergency for the pandemic. Oelke explained the reason for that on Friday.
“When you declare a state of emergency, that makes you eligible for federal emergency funding, and we don’t have anything on the front line that deals specifically with COVID,” Oelke said. “We don’t have a police department, a fire department or hospital staff. The nature of our business, we will never directly have an expense related to COVID.”
In another perspective, Orchard City didn’t want to be part of the federal process for emergencies when it had nothing to gain from doing so. “We don’t have any activities that would require that,” Oelke said.
However, the Orchard City Board of Trustees — with one new trustee who was elected in last month’s election — has pressing business to attend to, which requires it to resume it meetings. A workshop meeting will take place Wednesday at 7 p.m. Because virtual meetings have not yet been approved, the on-location meeting will take place with precautions. The number of attendees will be limited to comply with state law, and every attendee will be required to wear a facial covering.
Of the more important meeting topics, the board will discuss the water treatment plant, particularly with the $1,000,000 DOLA grant, Oelke said.
To recap, the water treatment plant project is planned to add a third water filter to the system, while also allowing maintenance of the two existing filters. This third filter would create a more stable situation for water in town and ensure better supply in the future.
With the grant money and loan money available to the town, Oelke said the Town of Orchard City is now looking into constructing an additional fourth shell for future construction. This fourth shell would not have the inner components at this time but would instead make it far easier to install a fourth filter one day.
“Now we’re looking at the loan part of it,” Oelke said, “because we applied for both grants and loans for funding, and then we just have to decide how much money we’re going to borrow to get the project done.” The town hopes to get the project started in September so that it can be done by mid-January 2021.
Orchard City’s primary industry is in water, while they don’t collect either sales tax or property tax. This separates the town substantially from the coronavirus crisis.
“We don’t depend on those kind of things,” Oelke said. “We are actually in a really good place considering other municipalities that are losing tons of revenue that they need to support major options in their cities.” There are still a few inconveniences on Orchard City, particularly with the drop in county sales tax that every town is seeing, but overall, it hasn’t been hit hard by the crisis.
With meetings returning, Orchard City’s business items will be in action once more starting on Wednesday, and meetings will progress as scheduled from there, in some form.