FOLEY -- The city of Foley has hired a firm to help secure much-needed state funds to connect to St. Cloud's wastewater treatment system.

At their Tuesday night meeting, the council approved a contract with St. Paul-based legal firm Flaherty and Hood, who will lobby at the state capitol this legislative session.

Foley is out of capacity in its existing wastewater treatment ponds. A moratorium is currently in place for all residential and commercial sewer extensions, and nearly all residential construction has been put on hold.

"We can't move forward with new projects to grow our tax base," said City Administrator Sarah Brunn. "Moving forward with this would mean we could add more housing, expand our industrial park, and grow Foley."

In April, the council voted to connect to the St. Cloud wastewater system via an 11-mile pipe along Highway 23. The total cost of the project is estimated at over $22 million.

A lack of state funding could drive up sewer rates for residents by as much as 300%.

"Without it, we can't move forward," said Brunn. "A combination of grant and loan funding is crucial."

Once the new wastewater pipeline is completed and operational, St. Cloud will charge Foley a monthly fee based on the volume of water used.

Construction is expected start in the spring of next year.