Water lines will be linked from Franklin County to the southern end of Madison County sometime in 2015.
County industrial authority members agreed Monday to move forward with a water expansion project, which will be funded with a $1.5 million loan/grant from the Georgia Environmental Facilities Authority (GEFA), with $500,000 of that “forgiven,” or not required to be paid back. The remaining $1 million will be repaid with 2.1 percent interest over 20 years.
“It’s going to give us an opportunity to connect the Franklin County system all the way through the county to the Clarke County line,” industrial authority executive director Marvin White has said of the project.
The project will include the installation of approximately 10 to 11 miles of water lines.
Approximately 3.5 miles of lines will be installed down Brewer Phillips Road to Booger Hill Road. Another four miles of lines are planned on Nowhere Road, along with 1.5 miles on Charlie Bolton Road, one mile on Childers Road and 1.5 miles at Virginia Lane.
The loan/grant application included plans for a water tank at Columbia Feedmill off Hwy. 72, but White said Monday that there may not be enough funding for the tank.
White said the project will allow the county to transfer water from Franklin County to Hull at cheaper rates than they’re getting from Commerce now. He said the county could have saved $3,000 last month on its water bill if the expansion was already done. Likewise, IDA members say new customers along the yet-to-be installed lines will help cover the cost of the expansion.
IDA chairman Bruce Azevedo expressed reservations in recent months about taking on any more debt for water projects, but he said this project will help pay for itself.
Azevedo said the $500,000 grant is important. He noted that $1 million loan at 2.1 percent over 20 years will equate to a $5,106 monthly payment. He added that without the grant, the IDA would have to cover another $2,553 in monthly debt payments.
“It’s just like buying a house — can we really afford it?” said Azevedo. “That’s what I’m looking at. How are we going to pay for it?”
The chairman then laid out how he feels the IDA can afford it. He estimated that the expansion project will bring in 50-to-75 new customers. He said that with current rates, the low-end projection of 50 customers paying an average of $44 a month would add about $2,200 in new monthly revenues for the IDA.
“Then you have about $2,900 that we’d still have to come up with,” said Azevedo. “…If we can pick up 75 cents per thousand (with lower rates from Franklin County), that gives us the ability to pick up another $3,000 per month. That takes care of the $2,900 deficit right there.”
IDA utility director Steve Shaw said after the meeting that bidding for the project could begin in the fall, with the project potentially completed around this time next year.
The industrial authority also heard Monday from a couple whose home is near the intersection of Booger Hill Road and Brewer Phillips Road. They said they’d like to connect to the proposed water line if it’s feasible. The IDA members didn’t give an answer Monday but agreed to consider the request during planning for the project.