Public meeting shows no opposition to rebuilding water systems
A public meeting was held on Tuesday night during the regular meeting of the Price River Water Improvement District concerning the rebuild of water lines in five small water companies, and based on the 20 plus people who attended the meeting, there is no opposition to the project.
"That was probably the most docile public meeting I have ever seen," said PRWID legal council Nick Sampinos.
The PRWID staff began the meeting with an explanation of the project and how it came about.
"For the last several years we have had requests from the water companies involved in this project to improve their water systems," said district manager Phil Palmer. "Since these are small private water companies they have not been able to apply for funds from the state and we have acted as their agent to do this."
The companies involved include the Carbonville and East Carbonville Water Companies, the Jewkes Water Company, and the Thayne and East Wellington Water Companies. Over the years these small companies have not had the capital to upgrade their lines, and consequently various kinds of problems have arisen. Some of the areas have pressure problems and others have various kinds of pipes that don't meet code. In addition new federal regulations that will affect drinking water will be very hard to adhere to by companies with small or very limited resources.
During the public hearing the questions mainly consisted of housekeeping items and interest in how the loan and grant system works.
"The money for this is being given to the companies in two ways," said Palmer. "About 20 percent of it is in the form of a grant, which means it doesn't need to be paid back. The other 80 percent is in a low interest loan."
According to the staff at PRWID the loan will be paid back over a 20 year period with a 1.72 percent interest rate. Based on the revenue bond amount of $904,000, it will cost residential, commercial and those who own stock watering connections $16.10 per month over and above the normal cost of their water bill until the bond is retired.
"If new connections come on line they will pay the same amount," stated Palmer. "However instead of more users hooking on and lowering the monthly payments on the bond, their increased revenue will shorten the period over which the loan will need to be repaid."
The two primary questions asked by those present concerned construction time and when the new charge will come into effect.
"We were hoping to have construction crews on the ground by Nov. 1," said Jeff Richens, assistant district manager. "But this has not happened as quickly as we had hoped. At this point, if everything goes well, the bond will close on Nov. 24 and we can begin construction shortly after that."
As for the extra charge to residents, it won't take place until the small companies are absorbed into PRIWID (part of the agreement) and then PRWID will be billing users for it. That means that all residents in those areas will be transfered over to the PRWID water rates.
The projects has some important deadlines built into it. Because water lines are being laid in some new areas as well as in replacement of others the district had to do a draft environmental assessment on the effect of the project on burrowing animals, raptors and in some cases the affects on farmland. Most construction must be done by March 15 of next year.
Some in the audience wondered about the reason for doing it during the winter.
"Basically we can get lower prices for materials in the winter and construction companies are more open to do work during those months," said Palmer.
Some residents were concerned about torn up roads in the winter time and the staff explained that they would do all they could to get the construction done and to provide as open as access to areas as possible.
After the public hearing, the board reviewed the ordinance allowing the action. However they cannot act on the ordinance because by law they must have one more public hearing on the matter and that will take place on Oct. 21 at 7 p.m. at the PRWID offices.
"What I want to be sure of is that people who live within these small water companies boundaries understand that we are not the ones who initiated this," said Palmer to the group before most of them left. "The companies and people have approached us. We are just here to serve the county's residents."