The Tallulah City Council, during a public hearing held Thurs., Oct. 22, at the Tallulah-Madison Community Center, voted unanimously to approve the refurbishing of the city’s water treatment plant.
The vote came after a detailed explanation by engineer Ken McManus of how the proposed $7.8 million refurbishing plan stacks up to a proposed $11.6 million plan to completely replace the facility.
Tallulah Mayor Charles Finlayson said the refurbished plant would cost residential water customers an estimated $12-a-month increase, while commercial customers could expect an estimated $44 hike. Finlyason added the council expects to qualify for grants that would likely drive the monthly increases down.
McManus said the first step in the process to refurbish the plant is going through the stages of securing funding with the USDA, which could take up to six months. With an additional estimated six months for preparation and an estimated 18 months to complete the work, McManus said residents could expect the entire process to take around two years to complete.
Finlayson said it was imperative the city address the issue quickly in order to finally resolve the issue and avoid further problems and/or fines.
“Everybody knows we’ve had some serious problems with our water plant for several years. We’ve made some improvements, but every time you fix one thing, another thing breaks,” Finlayson said. “We’ve got state agencies telling us we’ve got to address this water problem. In fact, we’ve had some fines levied against us. I think if we move to act on the plan, we won’t have to pay those fines, but we’ve got to do something.”
Prior to the council’s vote, McManus said a detailed study of the two plans showed that, not only is the rehabilitation option cheaper, but it would accomplish the same overall goals as building completely new facility would achieve.
“Two things that kind of pushed us toward the rehabilitation of the plant was: A. the cost of it; and, B. the Department of Health and Hospitals, they can’t officially say what they think, but they can unofficially indicate that they would prefer the rehabilitation,” McManus said. “And several of the reasons are because everyone that works at the water plant is already familiar with how the plant operates and, considering how bad the ground water is, it actually treats the water pretty well.”
McManus added the rehabilitation effort would also essentially replace the majority of equipment a new plant would bring, while simply refurbishing the remaining machinery and facilities.
“[With a rehabilitation] everything will be new. Every single well will be pulled and determined whether that well can be put back online,” McManus said. “We’ll have new tanks for the septic tanks. We’re going to redo the chlorination facility. The lime building will be refurbished. The high-serviec pump building will be completely renovated. The pressure filters will be completely replaced for number one, and two, three and four will be refurbished.”
McManus and Finlayson said, while the refurbished plant will achieve the goals needed to begin resolving Tallulah’s long-standing water issues, it also allows the city and residents alike to avoid a huge financial hit. Under the plan for a new facility, residential customers could expect to see an estimated hike of nearly $16 a month, while commercial customers would likely see a rise of more than $65.
“We’re pretty sure we can get some grants on these, but it is a big difference,” Finlayson said of the roughly $3.8 million difference in the projects.