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Park Falls receives $3.75 million in ARPA funds to fix water infrastructure

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The City of Park Falls has found a solution to avoid major water utility rates hikes.

As WXPR reported last month, the city was trying to work with the Public Service Commission to avoid a 75% rate increase due to the permanent closure of the city’s paper mill.

The City of Park Falls water infrastructure was built to support a paper mill that needed up to 1.5 million gallons of water a day.

But just because the mill is no longer operational, doesn’t mean the city has been able to just stop running all that water.

“That big draw that the pulp and paper mill were using, it sort of hid a lot of the issues that were underground in the utilities,” said Mayor Michael Bablick.

Bablick says the water mains around the mill are more than 100 years old and too shallow. They’ll freeze in the winter without water moving through.

The water towers are also at risk of freezing.

The city has been running about 250,000 gallons of water a day in the winter for the sole purpose of preventing freeze damage to lines and towers.

That cost was going to passed down to residents with the Public Service Commission proposing a water utility increase that would amount to about $25 more a month for the average household.

But now, a different solution is on the table.

Wednesday, Governor Tony Evers office announced a $3.75 million investment for infrastructure fixes in Park Falls.

“What this will do is it will allow us adequately upgrade and replace all things that are in danger of freezing so we can stop that practice,” said Bablick.

The grant is funded with the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA).

This latest funding is a small fraction of the more than $30 million of pandemic relief funding that is being investing in the city.

The other major projects include upgrades to Marshfield Medical Center-Parks Falls and a new YMCA.

It makes Bablick hopeful for the city’s future.

“We have a lot of good things going for us,” said Bablick. “We’re very thankful and very appreciative of the amount of time the Governor and his staff taken to understand this issues and then finding a way to help.”

The grants money needs to be used before the end of 2024.

Bablick hopes construction on the water infrastructure will start next summer.

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