Rector Council Holds Special Meeting on Water System

Thursday, November 3, 2016

Higher water rates potentially are on the horizon for Rector residents, based on information reviewed at a special city council meeting held Thursday, Oct. 28. During the session at city hall, council members were updated on the current efforts to rehabilitate portions of the municipal water system, and were informed an even larger project is needed.

Shannon Todd and Bob Sommers of Horner and Shifrin, the city's engineering consulting firm, reported on a recent meeting with the Rural Development office of the USDA. The firm is seeking a combination grant/loan through the USDA Water and Waste Disposal Loan and Grant Program, which will pay for several improvements for the city.

After examining the various documents provided by the engineers, the federal officials deemed a substantially new water system is necessary based on the size of Rector, and number of customers served by the current system. If approved, the new system would require a larger water tower, or another in addition to the current one, as well as the now-standard six-inch lines as opposed to the current four-inch lines.

The project also comes with an estimated price tag of around $6.6 million, and a stipulation that the water rates be raised at least $10 a month to help defray a portion of the costs.

If approved, the grant would handle 45 percent of the total cost, with the remaining $3.3 million to be paid for by a loan from the USDA at an interest rate of 1.875 percent. The engineers also indicated the percentage of the grant could be higher, based on several variables, and sought additional information from the city.

Mayor Teresa Roofe asked the engineers if the increase could be handled incrementally, and was informed the full amount must be met within 12 months. Currently, the average monthly bill for Rector residents is $23.84, including taxes, and the engineers suggested an increase of $10.72 a month for those who average 4,000 gallons of water per household.

The consultants also noted the city would need interim financing up-front, to pay for the preliminary engineering fees, easement creation, recording fees, land costs and the environmental impact assessment before construction could begin. Currently, the project has already incurred costs for engineering and legal fees, with the estimated up-front outlay expected to run several hundred thousand dollars. They also noted the project can be discontinued at any point until the city signs the final approval, and pointed out that Rural Development pays nothing until the actual construction begins.

The firm had originally been contracted to provide a proposal on painting the water tower, along with replacement of water lines, new fire hydrants, water well rehabilitation and the renovation of a city-owned building for use as the water department office. Due to the fact the developments would require a vastly larger, more expensive project, the firm recommended the city advertise for a project bid on the new effort. After an engineering firm is selected, council action would be required.

If the Rural Development office accepts the city's grant/loan application, the consultants suggested a town hall meeting on the subject to update Rector residents. They also suggested the city separate water and sewer charges on the monthly bills, noting the cost of expenditures of water versus sewer maintenance are easier to track for accounting purposes in this manner. They also added most other towns already utilize this system.

The consultants also urged council to act quickly, as the Rural Development office only allots grants twice a year--in October and April. They noted a decision must be made before Thanksgiving in order to assemble all the paperwork necessary for meeting the next deadline in April.

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