Scappoose will see major upgrades to its water systems starting next year, thanks to roughly $14 million from Oregon's allocation of American Rescue Plan Act dollars.
The city was directly allocated more than $1.6 million from the federal COVID relief bill, but states also received funds to distribute to projects statewide.
City officials credited former state senator Betsy Johnson with securing $10 million from Business Oregon, plus $3.6 million from Johnson's allocation through the Oregon Department of Administrative Services.
"Thanks to Betsy Johnson, the city received approximately $14 million dollars for water and wastewater projects and will be aggressively pursuing completion of those projects over the next 3-5 years to meet the deadlines associated with those funds," Scappoose City Manager Alexandra Rains wrote in the proposed budget.
Each state senator was able to allocate $4 million to projects in their district, legislators decided last year. Johnson, a Warren resident, was Scappoose's state senator up until December, when she resigned to focus on her independent campaign for governor.
ARPA funds don't have to be spent until the end of 2026, but Scappoose is budgeting for major improvements as soon as the next fiscal year, which starts in July.
The proposed budget for the city's water fund includes $13.3 million in expenses — a huge jump, considering the city has spent less than $3 million annually in that fund in the past three years.
The projects include a new well and a new $4.4 million reservoir at the Keys Road water treatment plant near the western edge of Scappoose.
The reservoir project will start in the coming fiscal year, but construction isn't expected to finish until 2026, Rains said.
"The city should be extremely proud of your staff; that money would not have happened without your staff," Johnson said in a public comment at a July 2021 Scappoose City Council meeting, shortly after the Legislature approved the state's ARPA allocation. "The result of their work is obvious: a lot of new money and a clear path to completing some essential projects as Scappoose continues to grow."
Johnson cautioned the city to complete the projects and spend the money before the deadlines, with Rains, who was then only interim city manager, at the helm.
"The city doesn't have the luxury of time," Johnson said at the time.
Scappoose's proposed budget for the wastewater fund also includes $4.3 million for projects that will be at least partially funded with ARPA dollars, including a $2.2 million biosolids dryer, a pump station on Smith Road, and a $2.3 million headworks and grit chamber.
Scappoose public works director Dave Sukau said the alternative if the state's ARPA funds hadn't been allocated to the city would be "finance or defer depending upon the project and its urgency."
The projects were pulled from Scappoose's master plans, which look at what upgrades will be needed in the future as equipment wears out and growing populations put more demand on the system.
Scappoose's latest water system master plan estimated $18.8 million would be needed for projects in the short-term, meaning between 2018-2028. The 2021 sewer collections master plan said "priority 1" improvements would total another $5.6 million.
The Scappoose City Council has frequently budgeted far more than it has actually spent, as city officials can postpone budgeted projects to the next year but can't make big investments that aren't in the budget without approving what's called a supplemental budget. All that year-over-year carryover, combined with the largest influx of cash from other governmental bodies that Scappoose has ever seen, means the City Council will have more than $43.7 million to work with this year.
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