Council tackles $5.75M water system project

By Katy Nesbitt/The Observer September 20, 2013 11:13 am

Residents express concern over potential rate increase at town hall

ENTERPRISE — To comply with state and federal laws, the Enterprise City Council is considering three alternatives to upgrade its water system, which is deficient in storage capacity, pressure and distribution.

A water system plan completed in 2012 identified significant deficiencies in the city’s system, said council member Laura Miller. 

“We are required to make improvements,” Miller said.

She then outlined the three alternatives the council considered.

The first plan would include pressure zones at higher elevations with booster pump stations, installing distribution improvements at various main lines.

The second alternative would do away with the booster pumps, but would include a new reservoir, distribution improvements and two new pressure zones to address low water pressure in some areas and over-pressure in other areas that causes broken lines.

The last alternative is a phased approach that includes a booster pump, distribution improvements and a future reservoir.

Miller said the second alternative is the preferred alternative of the council because it addresses compliance issues with transmission improvements, a storage system with redundancy and reliability for a minimum of 20 years. A new reservoir would be built along with pipe replacements throughout town.

Funding for the plan would come from the Environmental Protection Agency’s Drinking Water State Revolving Fund where the city would get a 30-year loan at 1 percent interest, with $750,000 in principal forgiveness. 

“This is the best case scenario as far as funding,” Miller said. “Trends don’t look good for future funding. Interest rates and project costs will go up.”

The other two alternatives would cost considerably more over time, Miller said, because they would require higher interest rates and by deferring some of the fixes, costs would be higher in the future due to inflation.

Water pressure and distribution is important to homeowners, Miller said, because of fire protection. In 2004, the city’s ISO rating, which is used by insurance companies to define a property’s risk factors, went from a 5 to a 6, meaning that it had cracks in its fire suppression system. Higher ISO ratings increase homeowners insurance and fire coverage.

Paige Sully asked if the city council had considered a property tax assessment instead of rate increases.

“In terms of infrastructure when you look at financing the water budget is tied to user fees,” said Chris Marko of Rural Community Assistance, which has been a consultant for the city’s recent water rate redistribution. 

City Administrator Michele Young said the water budget comes strictly from water fees, as does the sewer, and is not tied to the city’s general fund.

“What do you do if the majority of the community cannot pay rates when they go up?” asked Enterprise resident Toni Leach, who owns a laundromat and car wash. “People say, ‘I’m going to sell, I can’t rent my place, I’m going to move.’”

Any increase in taxes has to be put on a ballot and put to a vote.

Mayor Margie Shaw said the council would consider the comments and suggestions made at the town hall. She did not know if there would be another public meeting on the issue.

The next Enterprise City Council meeting will be held at City Hall Oct. 14.