Thanks to a popular state program, Faribault taxpayers are now set to get help paying for a long awaited water tower on the north end of town that will serve the community’s growing industrial park.
Last week, Faribault received a $2 million grant to help fund a new water tower from the Business Development Public Infrastructure Program through the state’s Department of Employment and Economic Development. The City Council approved plans for the water tower in 2019 with an expected completion date of July 2021. However, the project was delayed by about a year as the city worked to select a final location, design the new water tower and secure the grant dollars needed to pay for it. Groundbreaking could now take place this summer with completion in 2022.
The site on which the water tower will soon sit is currently owed by Met-Con Construction, next to its complex on the extreme north end of Faribault. The city’s Planning Commission will discuss a replatting of the site, which will allow the city to purchase a small chunk of Met-Con’s property for the tower.
City Administrator Tim Murray said that the final design of the tower is expected to be discussed at the May 11 council meeting. Bolton & Menk is in charge of the tower’s structural design, but it’s still unclear what the tower’s highly visible surface will look like.
To gin up interest in the tower and offer a fun activity for Faribault’s youth, Mayor Kevin Voracek held a water tower coloring contest during the 2019 Heritage Days. Voracek said he doesn’t know if any of the ideas developed by the contest’s winners could be used in the final design, but said it could be difficult as many of the submitted designs were intricate.
City Engineer Mark DuChene said that the new tower will help resolve issues with water pressure and flow deficiencies in the northern part of town. It’s also expected to foster future growth and benefit several nearby businesses, including Daikin Applied and Trystar. Despite the grant, the city expects to pay most of the bill. DuChene noted that BDPI traditionally provides a 50-50 matching grant, but when additional needed infrastructure costs are considered, the overall project is likely to rise above $4 million.
BDPI is an economic development tool strongly backed by legislators, with local Sen. John Jasinski is a particularly strong supporter. The Faribault Republican, who currently chairs the Senate’s Local Government Committee, has sponsored numerous bills to fund the program.
“One of my favorite programs we have is the Business Development Public Infrastructure program,” Jasinski said in a statement. “This program has been incredibly successful over the last decade, with more than 109 grants worth nearly $50 million and more than 14,000 jobs created or retained.”
BDPI is designed to help local governments to afford basic infrastructure improvements, from the construction of new roads to an expansion of water and wastewater service, often needed in order to secure large investments.
While the new water tower isn’t tied to a specific project, DuChene and the city’s Community and Economic Development Director Deanna Kuennen were able to make a persuasive case to the state that the project is still of great importance to Faribault’s economic growth plans.
It’s far from the first time that the competitive grant program has been used to help secure local business expansion. Faribault alone has received about $2 million combined in recent years to help accommodate expansion plans from Daikin and Faribault Foods.
“Any time you get $2 million in state funding, there’s reason to be excited,” DuChene said. “This is a big piece of the puzzle.”