Saturday, February 9, 2013

Full water-sewer repair would cost $8.4 million, add $26/mo. to bills, say estimates revealed at meeting

Story and photos by Denny Densford
University of Kentucky School of Journalism and Telecommunications

Midway finally has some numbers to put with its water and sewer woes.

If the city fully repaired its water and sewer system, the work would cost $8.4 million and add $26 a month to the average resident's bill, according to engineers’ estimates revealed Thursday night at the first of three public meetings on the subject.

The estimate for repairing only lines considered priority is $1.8 million, which would increase the bill of the average Midway water user by $5.62. These numbers will leave Midway with some important questions to answer.

The estimates were developed for the Midway Water and Sewer Task Force, which Mayor Tom Bozarth created in 2011 to investigate the city’s sewer and water needs.

Tad Long, left, a community development adviser with the Kentucky League of Cities, gave a slide presentation to the approximately 35 people at the meeting at Midway College on the recent history of the water and sewer system, including recent upgrades and financing.

In 2001, Midway built a new sewage treatment plant that is using just over 8 percent of its capacity because no major industry ever located in the Midway Station industrial park. The city still owes $520,744 for the plant, which is to be paid off in December 2021. The city’s water tower, built in 2002, has been paid off thanks to a state grant.

The most recent addition – a water line extension by Kentucky American Water Co. to the industrial park and the Weems property on Leestown Road – is the only other item Long mentioned that the city still owes on. The balance is $173,881. These costs, as well as bonds still due from an earlier sewage treatment plant built in 1984 that will be paid off in 2018, leave the city owing a total of $912,125.

The task force set out to determine the cost to replace what it defined as ”priority” projects, as well as the cost for a total upgrade to the city’s water and sewer systems.

According to estimates from HMB Professional Engineers, a Frankfort-based engineering firm, replacing all the necessary water lines would cost $3.1 million, and all the necessary sewer line replacements would cost $5.46 million.

A partial upgrade, limited to the priority projects, would be $277,300 for water and $1.5 million for sewes, for a total of $1.8 million.

So, what would each alternative mean for the average water user in Midway?

According to the report, right, if the city performed a full upgrade to both systems, the average water customer’s bill would increase approximately $26.20 per month. The “priority” upgrades would only increase the average bill by $5.62. The amount of the current average bill was not mentioned.

The costs were estimated on the assumption that the city received a 40-year bond issue at an interest rate of 3.38 percent, but market conditions could affect this number.

Council Member Grayson Vandegrift said that the cost for a full upgrade was too extreme, that he would never support such a price hike, and he couldn’t imagine anyone else on the council doing so, either. “I’d prefer to keep it city owned,” he said. “But my main concern is the cost.”

Bozarth, left, mentioned at the beginning of the presentation that Midway could sell the systems to Kentucky American Water Co., which has been supplying treated water to Midway since the city closed its water plant.

The next meeting on March 12 will feature representatives from Kentucky American, said Council Member Sara Hicks. Their presentation is expected to include the option of selling the water system.

Hicks said she thought the presentation was insightful and that she was interested to hear from Kentucky American as well as any other options that may surface at the next meeting.

Members of the task force include council members Aaron Hamilton, Dan Roller and Sharon Turner, as well as Bob Blankenship, James Johnson, Danny Smith and Roy Mundy, a former Kentucky American official.

Katie Brown, who has lived in Midway for two years, said she’s happy to see the issue being studied. She reported paying significantly less for such services before she moved to Midway.

Janice Holland, a faculty member at MidwayCcollege and a resident for nine years, said that she wished the presentation had a little more information. “I’d like to see more options,” she said.

Holland went on to say that the full upgrade option would result in an “outrageous increase,” and added that boil-water advisories had become a concern. She said they seemed to occur every two months, and Brown said there was one on the day of the meeting, Such advisories are usually the result of breaks in lines that need to be replaced.

While both options and increases seemed drastic, both Brown and Holland said  something definitely needs to be done.

Bozarth agreed, and said he was looking forward to future meetings that would help Midway solve its water and sewer issues. “It’s a three-step process,” he said, noting that the March 12 meeting will be followed by one that will provide a question and answer session so that anyone concerned about the decision will get an opportunity to voice their concerns and questions.

If that’s not enough? Bozarth said the city would hold as many meetings as was necessary before Midway takes its next big step.

The report, a very large PDF, is available on the Midway city website. You can find it here. http:// https://dl.dropbox.com/u/22643569/Midway%20Task%20Force%20Report.pdf

1 comment:

Jason Knight said...

That is quite a bit of money for a small town. I hope that they can figure it out. It is important to have a good sewage system these days.