Council learns water projects may be difficult to fund

Posted March 13, 2019 at 8:46 am

Albany City Council, during its regular meeting last Tuesday, March 5 with five members present, learned that two major water upgrade projects may take much longer than possibly anticipated, not to mention the expected higher costs water consumers would have to pay for the upgrades.

Much of last weeks approximate 25-minute meeting was a discussion with Monarch Engineer David Bowles who presented the mayor and council members with mapping, cost estimates and other information pertaining to the Duvall Valley upgrade and the 127 bypass waterline projects.

Bowles explained the needs of the water upgrade project in the Duvall Valley area in eastern Clinton County, noting that the extreme amount of water usage, especially during peak summer months, made it almost impossible to get water to many residents.

Different sized lines throughout the area to the foot of the mountain, as well as an influx of new residents and poultry houses, has outgrown the capacity to supply enough water pressure to those residents.

The estimated cost of the upgrades to completely repair the system came in at $2.5 million, with Bowles noting there is a potential for a USDA financing package for that project.

The estimated cost to run water lines along the 127 bypass to Hwy. 738 is now $2.1 million, about $200,000 higher than the estimated cost a couple of years ago when the project was first proposed. However, the council took no action on pursuing the project at the time.

The two projects combined would be $4.6 million, a total which Bowles basically said could probably not be funded under any USDA financing plan at the present time.

The engineer also presented the council with a cash flow analysis for the city’s water and sewer systems, indicating that no lending agencies would fund the projects until the cash flow is better.

Also, current water rates to customers would not be nearly enough to make annual payments of loans for the projects.

Councilwoman Tonya Thrasher asked if the city ultimately raised rates enough and other things fell into place, could the much needed projects move forward.

Bowles said that many cities are in similar financial situations when it comes to funding water related projects, and suggested the city pursue collecting outstanding water bills. But he also added it could take up to a year to get financing in place.

Bowles did recommend the city form a “separate” committee of members, to include water department personnel, to study the situation, which may involve coming up with the amount of extra water revenue needed to be charged to customers to fund and pay off the projects.

The entire council is in agreement that both projects are extremely important to residents and the city and hope to move forward in some manner, although no official actions were taken at last week’s meeting.

In other business:

* Mayor Lyle Pierce opened the meeting by congratulating the Clinton County Bulldogs on their 16th District Championship and first round win in the fourth region tournament.

* James Guffey then thanked the city for its quick action in making repairs to a driveway in the Piney Woods community at his mother’s residence that had been washed out after water lines had been run to the Marina at Rowena project.

Bowles also told the council that contractors would be making full repairs to the rest of those disturbed areas as soon as weather permits.

* Some department updates were given, including the water department billing system, which is now sent out in two separate billing cycles, depending on where residents reside. Sarah McWhorter, with the water department, said it is hoped the new system will make the billing system more efficient.

Brooks Ferguson with the street department said blacktopping on city streets has now begun and the department continues its monthly roadside cleanups.

Reports were also given for the water and police departments.

* Mayor Pierce told the council that Wayne County Attorney Tom Simmons had asked the city to enter into an inter-local agreement with the city of Monticello that would allow each police department to enter into the other’s jurisdiction during a police pursuit.

The mayor said that agreement would likely be ready to be introduced for a vote by next month.

The next regular meeting of Albany City Council is scheduled for Tuesday, March 2 at 5 p.m. at city hall and is open to the public.