It could cost Palmerton just over $8.1 million - or about $1.5 million less than anticipated - to rehabilitate its wastewater treatment plant.

Borough Council received the good news on Thursday from borough Manager Rodger Danielson, who said the bids opened earlier in the day were "very tight."

"To be that close is really a pretty good testament of the engineer specs," Danielson said. "We estimated about $9.7 million."

When all is said and done, Danielson said the plant will likely cost the borough a good deal less than what it had expected.

"This plant will probably be built for about $9 million, or about 10 percent less than we thought would be the purchase price," he said. "That's a good price for the project."

Danielson noted that the borough will continue to seek funding for the project through either the federal Department of Agriculture, H2O funding, or PennVEST.

"We're still looking at funding," he said. "We stand to come into things right now with as good a purchase price as we could hope to."

Of the 10 companies that bid on the project, G.M. McCrossin, Inc., of Bellefonte, Centre County, submitted the apparent low bid of $8,160,396.

That bid was $336,604 less than the next lowest proposal of $8,497,000 turned in by KC Construction Company of Ivyland, Bucks County.

Other companies that bid were Layne Christensen Company of Quakertown ($8,669,910); Howard Robson, Inc., of Landisville, Lancaster County ($8,762,000); Michael F. Ronca & Sons, Inc. of Bethlehem ($8,768,000); Worth & Company, Inc., of Pipersville, Bucks County ($8,779,820); Galway Bay Corporation of Mount Braddock, Fayette County ($8,939,700); Walabax Construction Services, Inc. of Telford, Montgomery County ($8,976,000); Wickersham Construction and Engineering, Inc., of Lancaster, Lancaster County ($9,144,010); and James T. O'Hara, Inc. of Covington Township ($12,388,632).

Danielson said construction of the new wastewater treatment plant could begin in early spring of next year.

"We can begin in earnest putting our finances together," he said. "We could put together interim financing; we're really looking at a lot of different options."

The bid results is certainly welcome news for the borough, which in October authorized the signing of a wastewater treatment plant consent order after it learned it owed the state Department of Environmental Protection $30,500 for its deficient plant.

Danielson said at that time the consent order was necessitated by the borough's current wastewater treatment plant, which has been cited by DEP for several deficiencies over the past two years.

He said the borough would utilize money from its sewer fund to pay the consent order, and added that the action could actually work in the borough's favor as it relates to a potential grant through PennVEST since one of the stipulations to qualify for the grant is to be under a consent order.

In August, council on a 5-0 vote approved the acceptance of Carbon County bond financing after county commissioners approved an interest reduction loan that will issue economic development bonds.

The loan will result in about a $400,000 savings to the borough over the course of a 30-year bond issue, Danielson previously said.

The bonds are available through federal stimulus money, also known as the American Reinvestment and Recovery Act.

In June, the borough applied for an H2O grant in the amount of $8,164,530 to help afford the rehabilitation project.

That decision came after council in April authorized Danielson and borough solicitor Michael Ozalas to prepare a $10 million bond issue after it learned the project would cost more than expected.

For residents, that could mean about a $17-18 increase in their monthly sewer bill rate, which could go into effect by Jan. 1, 2011.

As of January of this year, the project was expected to cost the borough about $6.5 million; however, engineer estimates pushed the project's cost higher.