City eyes permanent water fix

$25.5-million price tag put on decade-long solution to problems

The City of Rockdale is working on a long-term, permanent solution to the town’s half-century-old “red water” problem.

But it carries a heavy price tag, an estimated $25.5 million in 2010 dollars and would mean a substantial increase in water rates for customers.

Council members heard a report on water in their monthly session Monday at City Hall and also received recommendations of a year-long airport study, plans which could also run into millions of dollars.

WATER—Mayor Larry Jones, presiding over his final full regular session, said the city received a report from KSM Engineers in 2010, outlining what is hoped would be a permanent fix for the red water problem with projects, and expenditures, through a decade.

“This covers from the time a drop of water comes out of the ground until it goes down the sink,” Jones said.

City Manager Kelvin Knauf said of the $25.5 million price tag, $14.275 million deals with ground water. “That’s in 2010 dollars,” he said. “This isn’t adjusted for inflation.”

Stephen Dorman and Brent Bassett of KSM said the key part of the plan would come by 2017 with replacement of the city’s water treatment plant which they termed “not adequate.”

While the plant was termed “the source” of water discoloration, the engineers noted that replacing old pipes would also play a major part in relieving the problems Rockdale residents have battled for half a century.

Knauf noted the plan does not involve replacing all 51 miles of underground water lines.

EXPENSES—Knauf said the hefty price tag would not only impact city taxpayers, it would substantially increase water rates.

“Under one scenario it (rates) would be $73 before you ever turn a tap,” he said.

Monday was not the first time the $25 million figure was mentioned as a water system fix.

In an Aug. 25, 2011, council session, Jones noted such a massive project would involve a tax increase or a $100-per-month hike in water bills.

A Reporter on-line poll followed, with about one in six persons noting they would accept such an increase if it would get rid of the red water.

PLANES—Knauf pointed out the plan keeps the city with two separate, non-connected “pressure planes.”

Scooter Lindholm, public works director, said he participated in discussions with engineers and recommended the project include a switch to one plane.

Engineers said if that change was made, the current 500,000 gallon-water tower planned for northwest Rockdale would be inadequate and the city would need either to upgrade to one millions gallons or another storage tank would be required.

Jones said the new tower is envisioned to increase fire flow to the high school, junior-high school and Walmart.

PROGRESS—In October, the city began adding the chemical SeaQuest to the water system to prevent flaking inside old pipes, viewed as a major component of water problems.

Some progress may have been observed. “We’ve only had two red water calls this month,” Lindholm said.

However, officials aren’t sure if some residents have simply quit calling about discolored water. “We want to hear about water problems,” Lindholm said.

AIRPORT—The council listened to a lengthy report on the recently completed Airport Action/Business Development Plan, which was recently completed after a year-long study.

Scenarios range from renovating the current Coffield Regional Airport to building a new airport at a separate location were discussed, with price tags ranging from $6.4 million to $12 million.

Knauf was directed to meet with City of Cameron and Milam County officials to gauge interest in a new county-wide airport, possibly to be located in the Coffield Business Park north of Rockdale.

In other business, the council:

• Reaffirmed that a dilapidated structure at 1300 East Cameron (US 79) is in violation of a Building Standards Commission order to be demolished within 30 days and ordered penalties. (This is not the Cameo Building, which is located downtown at 113 East Cameron).

• Heard a legal opinion that a city may not enforce a deed restriction imposed by a private developer.

Renewed the city’s current juvenile curfew for three more years.

• Okayed a request from the developers of Hunter’s Chase Apartments on East Belton to have construction at times, during “off hours,” other than 6 a.m. to 7 p.m. weekdays.

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