Fulton to line sewer manholes, anticipates state revolving loan funds

The city of Fulton’s sewer system is about to get a lot more water-tight — financially and literally.

The city council was informed at its meeting Tuesday the city was approved for a $460,000 community development block grant to put better lining in about 900 manholes city-wide. The city has also been placed on the “fundable” list for a state revolving loan fund to finance the upcoming sewer plant upgrade at a lower interest rate.

The city pursued the lining grant after a test run for select manholes through the city lowered inflow and infiltration of groundwater into the sewer system.

“When we did a test project in the northeast corner of town, we tested before a rain and after and it cut (inflow) by something like 23 percent,” Director of Administration Bill Johnson said. “When you’re talking about going up in capacity, that’s a big difference.”

Johnson said the project, once completed, could reduce between 1 and 2 million gallons of water reaching the plant per significant rainstorm.

The project is expected to begin in a few months after bids. The project itself is expected to cost slightly less than $500,000, with the city contributing about $40,000 in time and labor.

The city has also been on the “fundable” list for the state revolving loan fund — a lower-interest alternative to standard bonds — for the upcoming federally-mandated sewer plant upgrades.

City voters approved a bond issue for the project, estimated at $13 million, in November’s election, meaning voters chose to pursue the revolving loan or bonds to raise sewer rates for a longer duration but at a lower rate of increase. Upon voter approval, the city was able to pursue the revolving loan fund.

“If everything goes as has been discussed in several meetings (with state officials), we will have funds available in January or February of next year,” Johnson said. “By securing funding, we will save the city during the construction project a lot of money. We’re borrowing at a reduced interest rate … which means a reduced (increase) in sewer usage charge. It’s the best-case scenario.”

The city has been working toward the project for several years, when federal Environmental Protection Agency standards changed and required higher standards for treated water returned to a natural water source.

In other business, the council also advanced an ordinance approving amendments to the city’s 2014 budget for second reading at the next council meeting, scheduled June 24.

The amendments, which focus only on the expenditure side of the budget, are an annual process of updating the budget to reflect actual expenditures for the previous fiscal year, noting which departments went over budget and by how much.

Chief Financial Officer Kathy Holschlag said this year’s amendment was “probably the shortest list of departments and funds over budget since I’ve been here.”

Five city departments went over budget by a total of $241,648 in 2013. The breakdown is as follows:

•The administration department went over by $16,081 on the purchase of the Rock Barn. Despite a plan to split cost on the historic barn to preserve it with the Fulton Heritage Trust, the city wound up purchasing the barn at its full $18,000 price tag when the deal fell through at the last minute.

•The engineering department went over by $61,457 on the Seventh Street Bridge construction, when bids came in over anticipated cost due to the time constraints on the project.

•The city pool went over by $16,350 on personnel, pool chemicals and purchasing a new diving board

•Solid Waste went over by $134,574 on vehicle repair, diesel fuel and purchasing a new vehicle

•The golf course went over budget $13,183 on a new roof

The budget justification notes that remaining departments were under budget by a total of $4.5 million, and the city recognized a $1.5 million increase in working capital for 2013.

“While budget adjustments are only done for expenses, there may very well be an offsetting revenue,” the justification states.

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