Board still ponders water, sewer plans

Published 8:00 pm Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Aldermen have again delayed a decision on a proposal to borrow about $4.4 million for water and sewer projects, with some aldermen indicating concerns about the rate increases such a loan would require.

     At Tuesday night’s board meeting, Ward Four Alderman Shirley Estes supported granting Mike McKenzie of WGK engineering provisional permission to apply for loans on the city’s behalf. Also discussed were a new fire truck and an environmental study for a site on Manufacturers Boulevard.

     Regarding water and sewer projects, McKenzie reviewed with the board the timeline it’s under if aldermen want McKenzie to apply for loans from a state program. Even if McKenzie applied for the loans now, the city would be behind in the application process.

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     “If you continue to drag and don’t catch up, you won’t get this year’s funding,” McKenzie said.

     If the city misses this year’s available loan funds, it could apply next year. However, that means construction on the proposal to expand and renovate the city’s water and sewer lines wouldn’t begin until the summer of 2014.

     Estes spoke against further delays.

     “Some expectations have been raised that we are going to do something,” Estes said, referring to residents of areas where the city has discussed expanding water and sewer lines.

     The board ultimately voted to recess Tuesday’s meeting until Tuesday, Aug. 14, at 6 p.m. for further discussion of the matter.

     Ward Five Alderman D.W. Maxwell raised concerns residents have expressed to him about fee increases. To pay off $4.4 million in loans, a total increase of approximately $6 to water and sewer bills would be needed.

     “There are too many people who don’t want their water and sewer bills to go up by $6,” Maxwell said.

     Maxwell said he’s received many phone calls about the potential increases.

     Estes countered that she’s received some calls of this nature but also received many calls from residents wanting water and sewer services.

     Ward Two Alderman Terry Bates said he’s concerned not enough people in the areas eyed for expansion will hook up to city water lines.

     Estes emphasized that even if the city were approved for loan funds, the city does not have to take the money. The only funds the city would be obligated to pay would be the fees to WGK for labor.

     Estes said she doesn’t want to risk the board waiting and then not being able to get the money later.

     Maxwell said he had been ready to move forward on the project, but the calls he’s received have given him pause.

     “I want to see if there’s a way to pay for this without spreading the cost around 4,100 customers,” Maxwell said.

     The recessed meeting will give board members the opportunity to officially vote and grant McKenzie the authority to seek the loans if they so decide.

     In other news, the board granted Brookhaven Fire Department Chief Tony Weeks permission to get quotes for a new fire truck.

     The department’s oldest engine is a 1993, nearing 20 years and suffering from some mechanical problems.

     “It’s still a good truck, but it has some age on it,” Weeks said.

     A new truck would come in from $400,000 to $450,000 but wouldn’t cost the city any money, Weeks said. The city receives $63,000 a year from the state for fire equipment and financing a new truck for 10 years would cost approximately $53,000 a year, Weeks said.

     Weeks will return to the board when he has quotes in hand for the new truck.

     The board also granted McKenzie authority to move forward with a phase two environmental study on an industrial site on Manufacturers Boulevard.

     The site is being eyed by American Railcar Industries for a potential expansion, said McKenzie. At a minimum, the study would cost about $12,000 to conduct soil samples. If ground water testing is needed, the cost would rise to about $23,500.

     The company won’t consider the site without an environmental study, City Clerk Mike Jinks told board members.

     Aldermen approved the environmental study after some discussion, noting that there’s been some difficulty in locating an appropriate site for the potential expansion.