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Six South Dakota Communities Receive Funds For Water Infrastructure Improvement

Kealey Bultena

Last week Governor Dennis Daugaard’s office announced six municipalities will each receive anywhere from half to three quarters of a million dollars to assist in updating their water infrastructure.

That $3.4 million came from a federal program the White House is proposing to cut.

The Community Development Block Grant, or CDBG, is funded through the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development and administered by the state. It’s designed to help local governments with funding for projects that improve living conditions.

This year’s recipients are six municipalities looking to fix their aging water infrastructure, be it water mains, updating fresh water storage, or upgrades to sewers.

Paul Mehlhaff is program manager of the grant for the state. He says CDBG is designed to go to communities with a population of 50,000 or less. Mehlhaff says it’s a great program for towns with smaller budgets.

“Infrastructure projects have just skyrocketed in cost over the last ten years," Mehlhaff says. "So, when they can come in and apply for a grant for half a million, on up to three quarters of a million, it actually gives them the hope that he project is doable. Something in their community they need to fix things that are aging.”

The City of Lake Andes has a population of almost 900. They’re receiving three quarters of a million dollars to update two thirds of their wastewater system.

Debrah Houseman is the City Finance Officer for Lake Andes. She says the project would be difficult to complete without the grant money.

“The $750,000 is a huge chunk of grant money that we thankfully received, because, without that, if you have to take on that much more in loans, you would have to make pretty substantial surcharges on your sewer fees,” Houseman says.

Houseman says the total project cost is about $2.5 million and the city is seeking other funding sources through rural development initiatives.

The proposed fiscal year 2018 budget from the White House eliminates the program, saying it’s “not well targeted to the poorest populations and has not demonstrated results.”