Luverne, Dozier look at water system grants

Published 10:48 am Thursday, April 11, 2013

Both Luverne and Dozier are looking to refurbish town water lines through grants, and public hearings were held on Monday.

The towns have applied for a Community Development Block Grant, which is administered through the Alabama Department of Economic and Community Affairs.

Susan Monroe, a grant consultant with Monroe & Associates, LLC of Prattville, spoke to the Luverne city council about the current state of the application.

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Luverne applied for a grant last year to replace service connection water lines from streets to houses, but the application was turned down because the city’s water rate is lower than average.

“What they do is look at water and sewer rates statewide and set a norm,” Monroe said. “This is an average for everyone, and anything lower will get points taken off.”

Monroe said Luverne had four points deducted last year from the application because of low water rates, and the project only missed funding by two points.

Monroe encouraged the town to apply again “instead of trying to pull off a rate increase in this economy.”

She also said that if this grant is not approved, the city may have to look at a rate increase in order to be competitive for CDBG grants.

Luverne mayor Joe Rex Sport said that any future rate increases would be because of cost increases, not to get funding for grants.

“Our objective is to provide the best services we can,” he said. “We have the cheapest electric, water and sewage rates of anyone around here.”

“We’ll raise rates as costs increase,” Sport continued. “Salaries, cost of living, and insurance rates will go up.  We won’t raise them to get this money.”

Information handed out by Monroe stated that the state has projected $20,780,346  in CDBG funds for 2013.

She said the recent government sequester may have an effect in the number of grants that get funded.

“We might be at pre-Sandy/Katrina funding levels,” Monroe said.

Luverne expects to apply for a competitive grant, which has a ceiling of $300,000 to $400,000 with a 10 percent match from the city.

Apply under community enhancement guidelines, the most a grant would award would be $250,000.

That’s the route Dozier is looking to take with their CDBG application to replace water lines.

Several community members at the public hearing said they were having trouble with rust in their water.  The tentative plan is to replace main lines on School Street and Main Street, which are some of the oldest on the system.

Hudson Engineering of Brantley is currently working with the town and Monroe & Associates to provide an estimated cost of the project for the grant application.