The federal government has awarded the city of Somerset $3 million to upgrade two wastewater treatment facilities.
The grant comes from the U.S. Economic Development Administration (EDA) to support future economic expansion and job creation. Along with $750,000 in local funding, the award is expected to create 379 jobs, retain 580 jobs and generate $179 million in private investment.
City officials said the grant will aid significantly in the overall project cost of $7.5 million to improve the Pitman Creek and Sinking Creek wastewater treatment plants. In addition to the grant, the city will take advantage of low-interest loans from the Kentucky Infrastructure Authority to fund the project.
Upgrades include a new sludge dewatering facility, a new grit removal system and a septage receiving station at Pitman Creek, as well as the installation of permanent inflow/infiltration detection equipment at Sinking Creek.
In addition to the economic benefits, the project is necessary to comply with a 2018 Kentucky Energy and Environment Cabinet order requiring the city to correct numerous wastewater treatment violations. These citations, dating as far back as 2016, went unanswered during the previous administration.
Somerset Mayor Alan Keck said he is grateful to be moving this project forward, as providing city residents and businesses with sufficient infrastructure should always take precedence.
"I am so pleased the EDA chose to support this essential project that will enable the city to meet the future needs of our residential, commercial and industrial customers," Keck said. "These are issues that quite frankly should have been addressed years ago and became a top priority when I took office. We must ensure we have adequate systems in place not only for today, but for the growth we are working so hard to achieve."
Mayor Keck cited several new businesses already in the works, including a 30-acre indoor farm and bourbon distillery, for which the wastewater upgrades are needed to help the city adequately serve existing customers and future customers, while remaining in compliance with EPA guidelines. SPEDA (Somerset Pulaski Economic Development Authority) is also developing a new commerce park to attract commercial and industrial prospects.
SPEDA President and CEO Chris Girdler said the community's industrial recruitment efforts and overall quality of life will be greatly enhanced by this project.
"Mayor Keck and his team have aggressively pursued state and federal funding to ensure projects like this get across the finish line, and I'm thrilled the EDA saw the need in supporting this important project," Girdler said. "The residents and businesses in Somerset, Pulaski County and the entire Lake Cumberland region will greatly benefit from Mayor Keck's bold and growth-oriented leadership."
The EDA grant is funded under the Assistance to Coal Communities (ACC) initiative, which helps communities severely affected by the declining use of coal. ACC projects support economic diversification, job creation, capital investment, workforce development and re-employment opportunities.
Alejandra Y. Castillo, Assistant Secretary of Commerce for Economic Development said President Joe Biden's administration is committed to supporting coal communities' efforts to grow their economies and create jobs. "This investment will support construction and equipment installation at two wastewater treatment plant sites to enable the city to meet future business needs," she added.
The Lake Cumberland Area Development District (LCADD), which works to bring the public and private sector together to strengthen the regional economy, led regional planning efforts that made this project possible.
Governor Andy Beshear was the first to congratulate the city, announcing the grant in a news release.
The importance of modern infrastructure cannot be overstated for its expansive benefits for Kentucky communities," he stated. "The upgrades to two wastewater treatment facilities in Somerset will mean better service for Kentuckians, while creating opportunities for economic investment, growth and good-paying jobs. We are grateful for the EDA's generous investment in Kentucky's infrastructure and the future of our people."