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Federal stimulus money for Granite Shoals might go to water upgrades

Construction on Granite Shoals water tower

Concrete was poured Aug. 25 at the location of the new Granite Shoals water tower on Blue Briar and Phillips Ranch Road, across the street from the current water tower. Courtesy photo

The city of Granite Shoals received its first of two payments of $630,243.56 from the American Rescue Plan on Aug. 20. City staff voiced ideas on how the money should be spent during the City Council’s regular meeting Tuesday, Aug. 24. 

The city anticipates receiving a total of $1,260,487.12 from the federal COVID-19 stimulus package approved by Congress earlier this year. The final payment will come in the next few months.

“We should spend it primarily on water lines, 90 percent,” City Manager Jeff Looney said. “We can get a big bang for our buck on water lines.”

The water work underway is being done through a water bond that passed in November 2019. That, along with a community block grant, includes money for fixing the pressure tank at Sherwood Shores 3, buying a new water tower, upgrading the water treatment plant, and addressing the raw water intake system with a “portion” going toward water lines and fire hydrants. 

Since some water lines already will be worked on, Looney said it’s more cost effective to hire the same company to do the work.

“You’ll save money because you’ll have people here already,” he said. 

The plan is to focus on water line replacements at Valley View because “that’s where fire hydrants are needed,” the city manager said. 

He noted some of the water lines on the east side of the city are “crumbling” because they are old plastic pipe.

“We’re going to start on this project once we know for certain what we’re going to be spending on the water tower and the plant,” Looney said. “We’ll know how much money we have left. We’ll go out for bids for the other work. Council has to approve the bid.”

In other water news, Looney said city staff are examining what can be done regarding an extra $3 service charge to those who choose to pay their water bill online and make a voluntary $3 donation toward the city’s first responders. The fire department receives $2 from the donation, while the remaining $1 goes to the police department. 

Before a system upgrade, residents simply clicked on a box online to add the $3 donation without worrying about an additional service fee. But Councilor Samantha Ortis said that when she clicked on the donation box, she saw a second service fee charge. Each charge is about $3. 

Looney said staff have spoken with the software company.

“We have to work with them,” he said. “We’re not going to (charge) our customers (extra money for the donation). We’ll figure something out.”

The council also conducted its first public hearing on the proposed 2021 property tax rate not to exceed $0.5986 per $100 value. No one spoke during the hearing. The second public hearing is Thursday, Sept. 9. The council is expected to pass the rate during its Sept. 14 regular meeting.

jfierro@thepicayune.com