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2017 IACC public infrastructure award winners

The ninth annual Infrastructure Assistance Coordinating Council (IACC) awards for outstanding achievement in public works projects throughout the state were presented at the awards luncheon during the IACC Conference in Wenatchee on Wednesday, October 25, 2017.

Joe Mitschelen Lifetime Achievement Award: Cus Arteaga – City of Grandview

Cus has been employed with the City of Grandview since 1973. Over the years, he has worked with many of the funding agencies at IACC to fund infrastructure projects for the city. He has served on many association boards and regional planning organizations. He is a leader who leads by example, and has been known to jump in to help out his staff when needed. Cus implemented the “yes we can” motto. It’s a coin bank, and a physical reminder that “can’t” is not an option. He exemplifies the essence of the Joe Mitschelen Award.

Community Impact Award: City of Tonasket

The City of Tonasket is a small community in Okanogan County. Access into the city is via a two-lane bridge that was designed primarily for highway traffic. When a group of local veterans called the Legacy Association came together to create the Armed Forces Legacy Park, pedestrians had to walk along the bridge to access it. This created a dangerous situation, and the city stepped in to take action. They attended an IACC tech team where they brought a pedestrian foot bridge idea to present as a high priority. The tech team participants helped the city develop a path forward. WSDOT provided some grant funding to the city, a fundraiser was held to raise money, and the city provided funds of their own. A pedestrian bridge to the park was constructed that provides safe passage for visitors to the park.

Drinking water infrastructure: City of Brewster

The 2014 Carlton Complex Fire left many communities damaged, including Brewster. The city’s water tank that serves the northern end of the city was damaged in the fire and was losing more than 23 percent of its contents each day. In addition to residents, the tank supports both the hospital and a large assisted living facility. The city hired divers to repair cracks in the tank to reduce water loss, but needed to plan to replace the tank. At the same time, they were faced with replacing the other water tank which was 65 years old and well beyond its useful life. City leaders reached out to IACC for technical assistance to fund the replacement of both tanks. Department of Health, Community Development Block Grant and USDA RD helped the city devise a project plan to fund the replacements. A fully funded package was assembled in 2016 and construction commenced on the tanks. The city is now enjoying two leak-free potable water storage tanks that provide clean, reliable drinking water.

Community facilities: Curlew Water & Sewer District

Curlew is a small, unincorporated community that had individual septic systems, many of which were failing and creating environmental and public health hazards. Small lot sizes and newer standards didn’t allow for replacement of many of the systems. The District began planning for a system in 1998. It was a project that took a long time to complete, and had a number of hurdles including locating a plant site, gaining community buy-in, and finding funding. The District attended a tech team at IACC to learn about funding opportunities. Through a CDBG design grant, and Ecology construction grant and loan, and RD gap funding, the project was completed in 2016 and is serving the community.

Creative solutions: Regional Loan Partners

The Regional Loan Program is a public-private partnership between the State Department of Ecology, Health, multiple counties and local health jurisdictions, and Craft-3, a nonprofit community development financial institution. The local governments act as advisors for the program and work with Craft-3 and the state agencies to administer a regional on-site sewage system loan program to finance the repair or replacement of failing on-site septic systems across the state.

The program helps even the most financially disadvantaged homeowners obtain low interest loans to repair or replace their systems. In the first year, over 200 systems were replaced reducing sources of water pollution, improving shellfish growing areas, and protecting sensitive marine ecosystems.

Solid/wastewater: Town of Harrah

The town was faced with a compliance schedule to meet strict ammonia effluent limits with an outdated lagoon system. The current system could not meet the limits, so the town sought help from a local consultant to help them evaluate treatment alternatives. An engineering report identified a submerged growth reactor system as the best option for simplicity and proven performance. The town’s population is 640 residents who are primarily low to moderate income, so impact to rate payers was a crucial piece of the project. With information gathered at IACC conferences, the town sought CDBG funds to pay for the engineering reports. USDA Rural Development funds were used for design and construction expenses, and the town increased their sewer rates 36% over a three year period in order to qualify for grant funds from RD. The purchase of UV equipment from the neighboring community of Moxee helped to keep costs under control. The new system was completed in July and within two weeks of startup, the new plant was producing effluent ammonia concentrations well below the compliance requirement and the repurposed UV equipment operated flawlessly. This project will serve growth for the town for the next 20 years.

Transportation: City of Newport

The southeast Newport Street Improvements Project reconstructed approximately 33 hundred linear feet of roads on five non-arterial streets in the city with repairs to fourth and fifth streets between Union and Newport Avenues and installation of sidewalks, curbs and gutters along the west side of Garden Avenue. These projects had unique challenges that required ongoing communication between funding and state agencies and the Pend Oreille Valley Railroad. The city worked with Idaho Department of Transportation on one end of the project to design their improvements to mesh with an early design of Highway 41 improvements in Idaho. The project provided an opportunity for the railroad to replace old ties and conduct other maintenance that wouldn’t have been possible without asphalt removal. This and other creative components resulted in costs savings through project integration. The city has been a long-time participant at IACC conferences, using tech teams to help them maximize funding resources for their infrastructure projects.

Joe Mitschelen Lifetime Achievement Award: Karen Klocke – WA State Dept. of Health

Karen has been providing hands on technical assistance and how-to training to local communities across Alaska, Hawaii, and Washington for decades. She is a solutions oriented person, whether that means corralling a group of her fellow technical assistance providers in order to conduct a regional workshop, or providing options to water systems when funding options are limited while compliance deadlines loom. She drives long distances to attend council meetings to assist communities develop local solutions for local problems. She works tirelessly to provide assistance to the communities who rely on her for her expertise. Karen’s dedication also goes beyond her drinking water duties. In 2015, Karen leased her vacant lot to a community garden organization used by local veterans for a small fee, showing her generosity and community spirit. Karen is highly regarded and greatly respected by her clients and peers and is undeniably authentic.

Heart and Soul Award: Janice Roderick – USDA Rural Development

Janice is one of the few who can claim to be a part of the early days of IACC. The first conference was held in 1989 and Janice assisted in the coordination activities for Ecology, where she was working. In 2000, she was the IACC co-chair for the conference. Over the years, Janice has participated in countless tech teams at IACC conferences, giving generously of her knowledge and time. She continues to participate in IACC tech teams as well as coordinate the scholarship program for the conference. In addition to IACC, Janice assisted with the executive of the timber/salmon initiatives in 1993, and was the lead assisting IACC members and public bodies as the lead on the Environmental Coordination Clearinghouse Committee. Janice’s fingerprints are on many of Washington’s rural projects, whether it be environmental, community facilities, water or wastewater. Regardless of the project, Janice, in her quiet but passionate demeanor always has what it takes to provide her expertise with the best interest for the rural community in mind.