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Infrastructure Investment: PFAS, bridges, and roads top priority list for City of Rhinelander

Katie Thoresen

Billions of dollars are expected to flood Wisconsin to help improve roads, public transit, and broadband among other infrastructure improvements.

Rhinelander City Administrator Zach Vruwink believes funding from it will be able to support major projects that have been on the city’s list for a while.

“Very exciting opportunities, all of which cannot be accomplished by Rhinelander’s means alone, said Vruwink. “These programs are really crucial for us to make those improvements for the benefits for residents and visitors.”

Vruwink said he believes the infrastructure bill will make an impact in Rhinelander, but how and to what extent isn’t exactly clear yet.

From his understanding, the money will go to the state and will then be distributed with grants through many programs the city is already familiar working with.

“The rural emphasis is really important because Rhinelander obviously doesn’t have the means to address all of these infrastructure needs whether they’re roads, bridges, water/sewer utility needs, on our own, unless we were to raise taxes or raise utility rates significantly. We’re really excited about the opportunities that will be presented to the city,” said Vruwink.

Top of the priority list is dealing with Rhinelander's PFAS problem.

Wisconsin is allotted more than $800 million from the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act to address water infrastructure.

Vruwink said Rhinelander already has an application in with the state to get a new well. The money from the bill could help fund programs like that one to help ensure Rhinelander and other cities that need help when it comes to PFAS get prioritized.

“Conceivably, through additional funding of those programs, those projects that are on the priority list of which the well and even PFAS treatment are on the list, that we would be in line essentially for receiving those dollars,” said Vruwink. “It’s a matter and question of time and how the scoring will work, but we do believe there will be a direct impact here in Rhinelander.”

Several other project he’s hoping the city will get funding to tackle include road improvements, sewer utility projects, and bridge repair.

“While are bridges are in pretty decent shape, a number of them, there’s 9 in the city, are due for substantial rehabilitations in the coming years, and those are very, very expensive,” said Vruwink.

In addition to the infrastructure bill, Vruwink said money from previously passed federal coronavirus aid packages will be helping the city with other reconstruction projects.

Katie Thoresen is WXPR's News Director/Vice President.
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