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Wildwood wins $9.25 million grant to help pay for upgrade at wastewater treatment plant

Wildwood will receive a $9.25-million state grant to defray a portion of an estimated $130- to $150-million project to upgrade the existing wastewater treatment plant and build a new plant next to it.

City Manager Jason McHugh told commissioners Monday night that the grant was awarded last month by the Florida Department of Environmental Protection.

Mayor Ed Wolf estimated the grant will cover about 6 percent of the project cost and praised McHugh and Assistant City Manager Cassandra Smith for getting it. 

The need for increased wastewater treatment capacity was prompted by Wildwood’s rapid growth.

Home construction in the Villages of Southern Oaks, apartment projects and new businesses fueled the growth and the city’s population nearly doubled in three years to 30,327, according to a 2023 University of Florida estimate, making Wildwood one of the nation’s fastest growing cities.

To save construction costs, commissioners decided to build a smaller plant and continue operating the upgraded existing plant. The two plants will be able to process about 5.5 million gallons of wastewater each day.

McHugh said he is pursuing additional grants. The bulk of the project likely will be financed with revenue bonds issued over a 20- to 30-year term. Utility fees also were raised to generate more cash.

In November, commissioners hired Garney Construction as construction manager at risk to build the second wastewater treatment plant. The firm replaced PC Construction, fired after it was unable to reach a permanent contract agreement with the city after making upgrades to the existing plant that increased its capacity to 3.55 million gallons daily.

Garney is the nation’s largest pipeline contractor and a leading contractor for water and wastewater projects.

“We promised our constituents we would try to keep the prices down,” he said.

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