City may is­sue $2M in bonds for wa­ter in­fra­struc­ture fixes

Mayor wants more debt paid down, but man­ager says re­pairs can’t be put off.

Austin American-Statesman - - COMMUNITY NEWS - By Fran Hunter

Smithville city lead­ers may con­sider is­su­ing up to $2 mil­lion in cer­tifi­cates of obli­ga­tion to fund re­pairs to the city’s waste­water sys­tem, el­e­vated wa­ter tow­ers and ground stor­age tanks.

City Man­ager Robert Tam­ble is ex­pected to present the bond pro­posal, which does not re­quire voter ap­proval, to the City Coun­cil at its Oc­to­ber meet­ing.

Two of the city’s wa­ter stor­age fa­cil­i­ties were flagged last year by the Texas Com­mis­sion on En­vi­ron­men­tal Qual­ity as need­ing re­pairs or to be re­placed. The TCEQ can charge the city up to $25,000 per day per oc­cur­rence un­til the re­pairs are com­plete, of­fi­cials said. The city’s an­nual in­spec­tion is com­ing up.

“It doesn’t mean our wa­ter has is­sues,” Tam­ble said. “It means our stor­age has is­sues. Don’t con­fuse the two.”

The tanks have rust marks and seam prob­lems, and city staff is con­cerned about pos­si­ble tank fail­ure.

Main­te­nance of the wa­ter stor­age sys­tem has been needed for years but Tam­ble said that nat­u­ral dis­as­ters in re­cent years have de­pleted any avail­able funds that could have been used for the fixes. Now, he said, the city has no choice but to get the work done.

But the $2 mil­lion es­ti­mated cost for the wa­ter and waste­water im­prove­ments just isn’t in the bud­get. The City Coun­cil will con­sider is­su­ing cer­tifi­cates of obli­ga­tion, or debt that city gov­ern­ments may is­sue in cases of emer­gency that does not re­quire voter ap­proval.

The costli­est of the im­prove­ments is a new wa­ter stor­age tank, es­ti­mated to cost about $500,000, to han­dle cur­rent use as well as new con­struc­tion on the south­ern part of the city. City of­fi­cials are ne­go­ti­at­ing a pos­si­ble part­ner­ship with the Smithville school district to place the tank on the district’s 100 acres off Texas 95 South, where the high school is lo­cated, and the new ath­letic fa­cil­ity and ju­nior high school are be­ing built.

The two “golf ball” tow­ers at Dorothy Ni­chols and the Re­cre­ation Cen­ter both need re­pairs es­ti­mated to cost $350,000 each, of­fi­cials said. The 600-gal­lon ground stor­age tank at Fawcett Street needs $300,000 worth of fixes, and the 100-gal­lon ground stor­age tank at Keil­berg Park needs about $50,000 of work.

Wa­ter in­fra­struc­ture at both the Dorothy Ni­chols and Keil­berg Park lo­ca­tions have been flagged as need­ing im­prove­ment by the TCEQ.

The waste­water sys­tem also needs work. The fa­cil­ity at Ga­z­ley Street needs about $300,000 in im­prove­ments. And about $100,000 for a waste­water di­verter valve and other im­prove­ments are needed be­tween the Wil­low Creek fa­cil­ity and Ga­z­ley Street.

Tam­ble said that is­su­ing cer­tifi­cates of obli­ga­tion is doable with cur­rent debt at $5.5 mil­lion. In the past two years, the city has re­duced its debt ser­vice by $1.5 mil­lion in the three bonds it holds, and by around $3.5 mil­lion since Tam­ble be­came city man­ager in 2014.

“I’m a firm be­liever in pay­ing down debt, but this can’t wait,” Tam­ble said.

In the Sept. 5 bud­get work­shop, Mayor Scott Saun­ders dis­agreed with adding more debt at this time. He wants to wait un­til 2021 when more debt will be paid. Both Tam­ble and city util­i­ties direc­tor Jack Page be­lieve the fixes can’t wait that long.

“Since we’ve al­ready been writ­ten up on sev­eral of th­ese tanks, I think it would be ir­re­spon­si­ble of us to not go ahead with this and avoid emer­gency mode,” Coun­cil Mem­ber Joanna Morgan said.

If it ap­proves is­su­ing cer­tifi­cates of obli­ga­tion, the City Coun­cil will have to de­cide how to raise funds to cover the debt. Tam­ble said there are three ways to raise rev­enues: add a flat rate to the util­ity bill, raise rates or struc­ture against taxes.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA

© PressReader. All rights reserved.