Over the next couple of months, the Orrick Board of Alderman will develop a plan to replace water lines while making improvements to sewer and storm water.
Mid-America Regional Council Grant Writer Molly McGovern spoke with the board last Thursday night about how to best approach the plan.
McGovern, who was hired by the city to do an assessment, said the city’s biggest problem right is water loss. She said over the last two years the city has purchased about 36 million gallons of water, but only sold 26 million. That’s a loss of more than 10 million gallons of water or about 27 percent. At $3.50 per thousand gallons that is about $350,000 in water loss.
McGovern suggested that the city bring rural water out to determine which lines in the city have the biggest need for replacement. She said water savings would offset any amount of money that is spent on water line upgrades.
“The best way to approach it is to figure out if we can determine which lines are in the worst condition,” McGovern said. “You will immediately have savings as you fix those lines that need the most improvement.”
McGovern said it would cost $760,000 to replace all of the water lines in the city. She said there are several ways to pay for improvements and that is what city leaders need to figure out over the next couple of months. She said by January or February she should know when grant applications are due.
“The rest of this year would be a good time to thing about how you want to go about making water improvements,” she said.
McGovern said grants for sewer and water line improvements are extremely competitive especially here in the Midwest. She said grants are not usually awarded unless a city has their water rates in line. She said the target rate for Orrick would be $62.50 for a customer that uses 5,000 gallons a month. Orrick is at $33.00 for 5,000 gallons.
“They want to make sure you are charging a high enough water rate,” she said. “They’re only going to subsidize those systems with a higher water rate and your rate is not very high in comparison to what they would be asking for.”
She said if the city raised rates $0.75 per thousand and added $0.75 to the base rate, the city could raise about $20,000 a year to use on improvements.
“There’s not just one way to do it,” she said. “You get to pick a direction that best fits your community.”
McGovern did say that her study found that the city’s sewer system is in pretty good shape. The only improvement that is needed is on Taylor Street that will run about $24,000.
McGovern said storm water grants are much more accessible than water grants. The city already has a working storm water plan. McGovern suggested updating the plan with current construction rates, although Alderman Jim Eubank suggested waiting because prices could change between now and next spring.
McGovern also said that sewer and storm water lines could be replaced at the same time and installed in the same hole.
Eubank said he liked the idea and said that plan has worked well for the city of Blue Springs where they install the lines underneath the sidewalk. He said once a problem is located, only one section of sidewalk needs to be torn out and replaced.
“The potential to piggyback these programs will really make it cost effective,” Eubank said. “If we get everything in place we could end up with curbs and storm sewers.”
Mayor Shirley Taylor said that Eubank has already agreed to head up a committee to find out ways to approach the improvement. She said she wants community involvement on the project.
“We would like to even have some people in the community to serve on this committee,” she said.