Aldermen delaying water, sewer plans

Published 8:00 pm Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Aldermen have set aside plans to borrow $4.4 million for water and sewer projects and instead voted to address the city’s infrastructure needs incrementally.

     At a recessed meeting Tuesday night, Ward Six Alderman David Phillips made a motion that the city move forward with projects it has already committed to, but to pull back on any current plans to borrow money and instead address other areas of need piecemeal.

     The city is already provisionally committed to about $850,000 of water and sewer improvement work. That total includes the city’s match on CDBG funds and on a SPAT grant for water and sewer renovations along Highway 51.

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     The SPAT grant is confirmed, though final approval on the CDBG grant is pending, said City Clerk Mike Jinks.

     A proposal to borrow $4.4 million would have covered expansion of water lines to Oak Hill, Moreton Estates and Crooked Lane, expanded sewer to Moreton Estates and rehabbed some sections of the city’s aging water lines.

     It was estimated that financing such a loan would have required approximately $6 increases on the water and sewer bill.

     Those proposed increases could have been phased in incrementally, but proved to be a major sticking point to the board.

     Phillips said he’s heard from residents that a $6 increase would be a hardship because of the tough economic conditions many people continue to experience. At a previous board meeting, Ward Five Alderman D.W. Maxwell reported receiving many telephone calls expressing concern about the potential increases.

     However, Phillips said he does want to see water and sewer improvements continue.

     “This doesn’t say everything just stops,” Phillips said.

     Ward Two Alderman Terry Bates vocally supported Phillips’ motion and said he thought the proposed project was too big for the city to take on with municipal elections looming next year.

     “This is the last year we’re going to be in office,” Bates said. “We could be tying the hands of another board.”

     Ward Four Alderman Shirley Estes didn’t oppose the motion, but emphasized she wants Oak Hill to remain on the top of the list of areas to address.

     “I’m asking that everyone around this table remember this discussion,” Estes said.