Farmersville City Council unanimously approves $5M USDA loan to help fund new wastewater treatment plant
By Paul Myers @PaulM_SGN
FARMERSVILLE – Farmersville just leapt another hurdle in their race to their new wastewater treatment plant (WWTP). The Council voted unanimously to move forward on a $5 million United State Department of Agriculture (USDA) loan during their Monday March, 26 meeting, paving part of the way forward.
According to city finance director Steve Huntley the rest of the money will come from State Water Resources Control Board’s (water board) State Revolving Fund. However, the full cost of the project has not been settled on yet, but is estimated at $18 million. Huntley says when the project goes out to bid and contractors come back with the cost of the project is when they’ll know how much the Revolving Fund will need to cover beyond the USDA $5 million loan. He added the project is slated to start before the end of the fiscal year that starts in July.
“We are working hard to get this project going. There have been a lot of delays,” said Interim City Manager and Police Chief Mario Krstic said to the Sun-Gazette last December. “We want to go out to bid in January and break ground in May and then have a big push to the finish.”
QK Inc. in Visalia, which acts as Farmersville’s city engineer, first identified the need to upgrade the WWTP more than a decade ago. The City’s current WWTP has not been expanded since 1978 and right now processes on 850,000 gallons per day which is 68% of its 1.25 million gallon capacity. Nonetheless the State Water Board mandates cities to begin plans to expand their WWTP when they reach 70% of capacity which Farmersville does on high capacity days.
Despite the mandate, the City would be hampered economically if they were not able to expand their WWTP. Because not having available capacity also means cities cannot issue “will serve” letters to developers, a required document for them to build. That could lead to the State issuing a ban on new development, which would further hamper the impoverished city’s ability to pay for its own needed improvements like sewer and water.
Overall, the USDA $5 million loan is expected to be paid back over the course of 40 years at 2.75% interest. The loan will be paid back through rate increases that began in 2013. Last November, the final step of the five-year rate ratcheting ended when residents began paying $56.61 per month for sewer, up from $23.75 in 2013.