The Rosepine Town Council has directed its consulting engineers to assess two possible sites for a new wastewater treatment plant.

The town is between a rock and a hard place with its aging and deteriorating plant, trying to serve more customers than it was built for while keeping the state Department of Environmental Quality at bay.

Mayor Donna Duval told council members Thursday night that she has discussed with USDA the possibility of a 40-year loan for constructing a plant at a new site, with an interest rate of less than 3 percent.

In an interview after the meeting, she said USDA has concluded the town’s current rate structure is adequate to generate revenue to repay such a loan.

Of immediate interest to the town is a tract (Ambler) of about 13 acres that has recently become available adjacent to the current plant, which is built on a site that becomes a swamp after a decent rain.

Councilman Jeffery Solinsky asked it there was a better chance of getting funding for a new plant rather than for repairs to the old.

Wastewater Supt. Mike Numbers said the plan for upgrading at the current site essentially calls for a new plant, as most equipment would be replaced. 

That is particularly important, he said, because DEQ will require expanded testing in the permit for a new or re-built plant.

DEQ is the elephant in the room. No one wants it any more involved in town affairs than possible. 

Though DEQ has been patient as the town struggles with making up ground after a state capital outlay allocation for the project fell through, there is concern that eventually DEQ patience will wear thin.

“We don’t want DEQ taking over and telling us what we are gong to do,” said Numbers.

Councilman Ray Blanchard wondered if there were was any other land close by in the vicinity of the current plant. Numbers said there are one or two tracts but that none is currently available.

Councilman Damon Johnson said the town might be better served economically if the property had no road frontage. Number said the acreage would allow positioning the plant so no one would build close to it.

The other site Meyer Group will consider is 40 acres north of town donated to the municipality by the parish for future use as a ballpark.

Councilman B.J. Bjornberg pointed out that 20 acres or so would be plenty for a ball complex, leaving enough left over for the treatment plant.

Access to that tract has been an issue. “The urgency of our situation might provide a push” with the railroad to resolve the matter, he said.

Additionally there would be the saving of not having to purchase land and the town might pick up more system customers in that vicinity, he said.