By Callie Metler-Smith
The City of Stamford City Council held a Special Called meeting on Tuesday, August 25th to discuss a Texas Water Development Grant for repairs to raw water line and water treatment plant.
Scott Hay addressed the council toexplain some information about the Texas Water Development Board Grants. These grants are part of state funds to helps cities like Stamford make improvements to infrastructure, such as water and sewer. When the city applied for the project over a year ago, the City of Stamford was concerned about the future water source for Stamford and the raw water line coming from Lake Stamford to the City of Stamford. This application just basically puts Stamford in the running for the grant against other similar cities. Last year the City of Stamford submitted an application for a grant for the raw water line and to drill wells for fresh water.
The City of Stamford is ranked #8 out of around 250 which means that Stamford will likely get an offer of funding. For the projects the city submitted for last year, the estimated cost was around $18,000,000. Hay thinks that city will be granted between 11 and 12 million dollars at the intended use meeting that will be held by the Texas Water Board next week. Historically the grant money goes immediately, usually it is offered to the first 20 and then it filters down. Hay explained that this is a great opportunity for Stamford, but it very much a fleeting opportunity if the city doesn’t act on it now.
Hay also said that since the lake had filled up since they submitted the application, he had contacted the Texas Water Board and asked if the City of Stamford had the option to redesignate the funds toward the wastewater treatment plant improvements. The Texas Water Board confirmed that the funds could still be applied to other items that the City of Stamford needed.
Scott Hibbs then came before the council, he said that the Waste Water Treatment Plant for Stamford had some concerns since it was built back in the 1950s and has served over 60 years of useful
life. Hibbs outlined that at the time it was built water treatment was pretty much nonexistent, and there was no regulations on how clean the water was. In the early 1980s, if the water had the
level of turbidity (the measure of how cloudy the water is) of 5 then you were producing water that was acceptable for human consumption. Then the regulations started to tighten from 5 to 3 to 1
and now it is currently .3 turbidity. Stamford’s Water Treatment Plant was designed with no turbidity. He said the City of Abilene has one that was made by the same designer, and it has required
some filter changes and they are planning on decommissioning that treatment plant in the near future. Right now there is a single cement wall between treated water and untreated water so the
potential for non filtered water and filtered water to interact is higher than normal.
Hibbs said that the challenge is that you have an over 60-year-old facility that wasn’t prepared to do the things that are required of it. He feels that the city needs to look at the options for
this facility. He think there are many ways that the facility could be updated, and the city might look at maybe a smaller facility. He said it is not common to have offers like the opportunity
the City of Stamford currently has and that the City of Stamford really needs to be proactive about addressing these issues. He said it is much better for Stamford to take care of these issues on
their terms rather than having a Government agency such as Texas Commission of Environmental Quality (TCEQ) make the city make these changes.
Mayor Johnny Anders asked if it would be possible to do a Reverse Osmosis system to do away with some of the chemicals used. Hibbs answered that it would be more of a membrane filtration system
which is one of the newest technologies. Anders also asked about the water tower with its age and discussed that he would want to do a lot of improvement. Hibbs said that looking at all angles
would help them plan where they wanted to spend their money and what needs need to be addressed.
Councilman James Decker also pointed out that it sounded to him that with the current treatment plant there is a limitation on how good the water quality could be, and that a new treatment plant would make improvements far beyond what the current treatment plant was capable of doing. Hibbs confirmed that Decker was correct about that.
Vince Viaille with Specialized Public Finance, a financial advisor, presented the council with flyers. He said the fund that the city of Stamford is utilizing is the one designated for water, not sewer. The city would receive around 50% grant forgiveness, and they are looking at closing on the financing for the rest of the project around April 2016. The city will be financing $8,145,000 for 30 years with a projected interest rate of 2.5%, but that changes every month so it will be slightly different in April. It is a $19,000,0000 project that after grant money will be financed by the city for $8,145,000. The debt service to the loan will be $390,000 each year which is equivalent to a $13 per connection a month. Since the City of Stamford has wholesale water contracts with other water boards that are not tax exempt, the loan may changed to a tax piece and a non tax piece, but he still doesn’t think that will change the projected amount of $13 cost per connection per month. He reiterated that by submitting the application, it does not commit the city, the city is only committed when the city votes for the ordinance to issue the Certificates of Obligation to the water board.
Mayor Anders asked if the city had the option to amend the application to just cover some of the projects at a lesser amount. Hays said he was almost positive that they could preserve the grant to loan ratio to cover whatever they wanted to. He cautioned that the city would be giving away .50 on the $1.00 on infrastructure that the city really needed. Councilman Leldon Clifton made the comment that he is concerned that an increase in cost for water service would be hard on citizens, but that the constant repairs to the lake line such as the recent $50,000 repair is also hard. It was noted that the $50,000 repair would have equaled at $1.60 cost per meter to the customers, and there was the chance that there would be many more repairs in the future.
City Manager Alan Plumlee asked that if everything is great and they get everything they want for $17,000,000 and they have $2,000,000 left over, what would happen to the $2,000,000. Viaille said the city would have many options such as using the funds to shorten the loan and decrease the interest cost or it could be used for other water system improvements as long as it wasn’t for sewer.
Councilman James Decker made the motion that the City of Stamford move forward with the grant as presented at the meeting. The motion unanimously passed. The city council will next meet on September 8th at 5:15PM.