By Elizabeth Wilkerson - firstname.lastname@example.org
STRASBURG -- More than eight years of work paid off Friday morning when a group of town officials, staff members and others officially broke ground at the site of Strasburg's new water treatment plant.
"Are we deep enough?" Mayor Tim Taylor asked before pushing his golden shovel farther into the dirt.
The town bought the 33-acre plant site, which is located near Strasburg High School, in 2001. In 2004, the town entered a contract with R. Stuart Royer and Associates Inc. for the plant's design.
The town received an $11.55 million loan and a $2.46 million grant for the project from the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Rural Development program. The 40-year loan comes with an interest rate of 2.625 percent.
After an invocation by Strasburg Christian Church pastor Geneal Wilson, Taylor noted there were many former council members, such as Steve Nicholson, and mayors, including Tim Crisman and Rich Orndorff, who "spent a lot of time on this project." Though the council has changed, he said, the town's staff has been involved with the project since its inception.
"I appreciate all the town staff and all the hard work they've done," he said.
Though the town will build a "great facility," he said, the people who run the water plant are what will really make it work.
"We had an awful lot of mountains it seemed like we had to climb to get here," he said. "Now we're finally at the top."
Carrie Schmidt, community program director with USDA Rural Development, called Friday a "great day." The current plant has served the town well, but it's almost 70 years old, she said. The new plant will serve about 2,500 customers and more than 100 businesses, and will help Strasburg attract new commercial users, she said.
"It has just been such a great experience working with the town of Strasburg," Schmidt said. "We just want you all to know that we are here. We are here to help you through all the molehills and the knolls and the mountains."
Del. Todd Gilbert, R-Woodstock, said the town has faced unprecedented growth. But some projects, such as the town's upcoming wastewater treatment plant expansion, are motivated by government mandates rather than growth, he said.
"One thing we cannot do is continue to put burdens on localities," Gilbert said. He said he's committed to helping the town get the money to meet its obligations.
After the ceremony, Public Utilities Director Ron Tewalt said he wanted to thank those involved in the project for "making such a large investment in the future of the town and its citizens."