Just a quik update on the citywide water project. The replacement of the city mains is nearly complete. Steven DeFuentes, the its water supervisor, has told me to expect final completion of the replacement of the mains by the end of the month, weather permitting. Please excuse the shutoff of the water supply when breaks occur. The existing system had very few water shutoff valves, so when a break occurred, the entire city supply had to be stopped. The new system will have many valves allowing for isolation of trouble areas, allowing us to keep service supplied the majority of the town for most repairs.
I would like to give the residents information concerning the Waterline Replacement Project. As you all know, work began in mid-January with the replacement lines, and as a result of that work the city has had to shut water off several times already. The reason for this is that many of the existing lines were not marked properly and when digging began it was inevitable that some lines would be hit. We have equipment that is able to determine where lines are but only if the lines have “tracer” wire in them. Our water lines are so old that many of them do not have this tracer wire and so we were unable to detect them until they were hit. To help stop this issue, a line locator was purchased by Crescent Public Works Authority. This locator has helped tremendously because it shows where the lines are actually located in the ground. We have had fewer instances of water line breaks now that we have this line locator in use. The entire project will last until the last of October when everything will be completed. Some residents may notice “cloudy” water and this is due to lines being flushed as the new lines are put in. Rest assured that we are conducting testing on the water as we progress through this project and so far everything has stayed in the normal range and is perfectly safe to drink and use as normal.
I have also heard that some are saying that the water and sewer rates will escalate once this project is completed. I need everyone to know that we do NOT anticipate ANY rate increases in the near future. The last rate increase was in November 2015 and was in essence, forced upon the City in order to be awarded the grant funding and the USDA loan. USDA informed the city that the rates at that time were so low that we could not even qualify for a loan with them. After our application was made showing the tremendous need for waterline replacement, the City of Crescent received one of the largest USDA grants ever to a municipality. We were awarded $1.3M of grant money to incentivize the loan amount of $3.6M, on the condition that rates were raised to a level so that monthly loan payments could be made. The loan was closed on December 19, 2016 with an interest rate of 1.87% with a monthly payment of $10,692.00. We are also required to have two additional funds set up for asset (line) maintenance and an account that must have one annual payment built up over time. In total, our monthly outlay for the USDA loan is $14,233.45. Payments began in January 2017 and the rate increase from November 2015 is being used to make the payments, although the city has to add in approximately $2500.00 a month so that all three accounts are paid—loan, line maintenance, and annual payment.
One more thing that I want to be sure that the residents understand is that the City of Crescent had to come up with $224,000 in order to have the grant and loan funds made available to us for this waterline project. USDA required that we put in money for this project to get it started, prior to any loan or grant funding. We have had to pay out a huge amount just to get this project up and going, not to mention the other projects that required funding also, such as the CDBG Emergency Generator project. Most of the $224,000 has gone to Cardinal Engineering for their work before the project began. We have finally paid all that is necessary for local funding (city portion) and now we are able to access loan and grant monies to continue paying contractors for their work.
In closing, I want to assure the residents of Crescent that the city continues to work towards providing the best services possible, and your City Council are advocates for every citizen. Before the Council decide a matter, it is weighed for its merit and feasibility, as well as the cost to the city and to our residents. If you are concerned about how things are being run, please contact your Ward Council Member or City Hall and we will do our best to answer your questions and concerns.
Janet Smith, M.P.A.