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New England sewer project nears completion

New England's sewer replacement project, started in 2014, is entering its third phase and nearing completion.

Bids for the upcoming phase, estimated to cost about $5 million, will be approved by New England's City Council Monday.

The overall cost of the project will be roughly $17 million, Mayor Marty Opdahl said.

"We divided it up, the whole project, into four phases, mostly to maximize our grant/loan combination," Opdahl said. "Typically when you go through the USDA you can get up to $5 million and it runs about 65/35 loan-to-grant."

The third phase will use a North Dakota State Water Commission grant to cover $4 million of the project's cost, Opdahl said, with a loan providing the other $1 million.

The city's water mains desperately needed to be replaced.

"They're old cast iron and they were down to nothing. The holes in them are four-inch," he said. "It's just the age of it, the material that was used."

The new water lines will be made of plastic and promise to last "100 years," Opdahl said.

The upgrade will improve both water quality and water pressure.

"With the water pressure, you also have the flow for our fire hydrants. If there would have been a disaster, the flow out of the fire hydrants was inadequate some places," he said. "So that had to get done."

With the sewer replacement project, the city was also able to replace its streets.

"We've been able to replace about 70 percent of our streets with brand new streets," Opdahl said, "and curb and gutter going along with that."

The $17 million project is being paid for through an increase in the city's water rates, as well.

"Our water rates were kept artificially low and that was part of the reason we didn't have any reserve built up to take on some of these things on an ongoing basis," Opdahl said.

The project will culminate with a new upright water tower.

A previous water tower was demolished about 15 years ago.

"It was the old standard steel one with the red top and it had the four legs," Opdahl said. "This new one will be white, it'll have 'New England' on it, and it'll have the school mascot, so that'll be kind of neat."

He added, "I think it will become a new identifier for New England."

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