By Nikki Velarde, The Belton Journal
City Council held a special meeting Tuesday evening at the Harris Community Center to discuss the state of the City’s infrastructure needs as well as the City’s Debt Plan.
Infrastructural needs are a “national problem that demands a local solution” with water and sewer problems posing the largest issue, explains Finance Director, Brandon Bozon. It is estimated that within the next 20 years, the country will spend as much as $4.8 trillion in order to maintain its current infrastructure, with 98% of funding for projects coming from the local level.
For us, over the next 5 years there will be both major and minor infrastructure projects that will be completed in a series of phases in order to preserve as well as safeguard our infrastructure, where water and sewer will be the primary focus.
Due to the proposed Bond Issue, there are 4 projects to hit in 2015. These projects include the Temple/Belton Waste Water Treatment Plant Expansion, South Belton Sewer Service, Nolan Creek Trunk Sewer Project, and Automated Water Meter Infrastructure Project.
The Temple/Belton plant was constructed in 1975 and there has not been any further maintenance or rehabilitation done since the 90’s. “Once you hit 75% of your maximum 10 million gallon load for three months straight, you automatically go into capacity planning, and we’ve hit that point,” explained Public Works Director, Michael Huber.
r“Organic loading is a really big deal,” said Huber. “The amount of organic waste per liter of water is greater and means more organic molecules that must be broken down before the water can be released into the environment.”
Currently, our sewer service ends just past the Expo center. Upon completion of the proposed South Belton Sewer Service project, we will have sewer service all the way down to the Lampasas area which will coincide with the completion of construction for IH-35 in 2016/17. “It is a very attractive area for businesses and economic development,” Huber comments.
The Nolan Creek Trunk Sewer Project will buy about 4,000 feet of sanitary sewer. Currently, there are clay pipes in this area that have begun deteriorating due to hydrogen sulfide eating away at the pipes. This causes both inflow and infiltration that messes up the biological component at the waste water plant as well as increases treatment cost.
Finally, there is the Automated Water Meter Infrastructure Project. “As water meters age they lose accuracy which means we lose water,” Huber adds. About 62% of current meters in Belton are over 10 years old.
If we are able to implement all the proposed projects over the next 5 years, the total cost comes out to $29.9 million. “This is the most prudent use of taxpayer money given what we have to work with,” Huber states.
As far as debt is concerned, there are two types; aging infrastructure and monetized debt which is the one people commonly think of. The responsibility of City Council is managing these two types of debt by addressing high priority projects and potentially adopting responsible limits on the monetary side.
“Debt in and of itself is not inherently good or bad, it’s just a tool and the way it’s used and be either responsible or irresponsible,” explained Bozon. “Taking from future generations to fund immediate needs is irresponsible. You can use debt responsibly by paying for projects that are going to serve you 20 years from now.”
The current Debt Policy establishes a qualitative mechanism for managing debt by using it for long-term projects, not funding operations. It is used to provide a comprehensive view of the City’s long-term debt picture, and to make it easier for decision makers to understand issues concerning debt issuance and management. “We’ve always been pretty conservative,” added Mayor Marion Grayson.
“We take a cautious approach, but there are still things that need to be done,” commented City Manager Sam Listi. “We are certainly comfortable with our debt policy.”
“We took responsible steps to manage our debt under the debt policy…and we feel comfortable saying this is the right course of action,” said Bozon. “Twenty years from now, the citizens of Belton are going to benefit from having a Waste Water Treatment Plant that is up to standard and properly built for the right capacity.”
At the upcoming February 24th meeting, Council will have an infrastructure update as well as ask resolution to approve CO’s. During the March 10 and 24 meetings there will be public hearings on the Infrastructure update as well as a Siemen’s Contract vote on the 24th. Finally, at the April 14th meeting they will award the CO’s.