Thomaston water expansion a no-go

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, December 4, 2007

THOMASTON &8212; An expansion of the water system planned for the neighboring community of Taylor came to an end Monday when the water board voted down the USDA-funded project, 3-2.

The town was granted $2.2 million from U.S. Department of Agriculture Rural Development program, which provides funding for utility projects in cities and towns with populations less than 10,000. Thomaston was awarded $2,215,300 in grant funds and an additional $1,282,000 loan, which would cover approximately 63 percent of the estimated $3.5 million project.

According to Martin, nearly 100 applicants had committed to the project and paid a deposit for a line to connected to their residences. The original parameters of the project were for 130 new signees in order to go forward with the project.

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Martin said many people were stalled on signing up because they were unsure whether or not the city was going to go forward with it. As recently as Monday, Martin said there were seven or eight potential applicants waiting to sign based on the board&8217;s decision.

Prior to the board&8217;s vote, Mayor Terry Counselman presented them with two letters &045; one from Marengo County Commission Chairman John Crawford and Rep. A.J. McCampbell &045; in support of the project.

At least one board member disagreed, saying all he had heard from his constituents were complaints about the project.

Furthermore, Counselman cited a lack of growth to support the financial aspect of the expansion.

The water board&8217;s contribution to the project would have been $6,5000 and the $1.2 million loan would be repaid using the revenue brought in from the service area. In order to pay off the loan, water rates would be increased.

Another aspect of the grant is some funds were set aside to provide much-needed upgrades to the town&8217;s aging water system. The plan included $210,000 for a new pump station and $350,000 allocated for upgrades to the existing well and well house. The project also included a new 200,000-gallon water storage tank to be constructed at the intersection of County Road 38 and Sand Creek Road.

Now that the board has voted down going further with the expansion, the grant funds will be given back to the USDA and each applicant will receive a refund of their deposits. The Town of Thomaston is also responsible for paying a surveying firm for work already performed in anticipation of the expansion.