Millions in grants, loans may be available through USDA
State funds for planned Madison County water expansion projects have dried up, but the federal faucet may soon be turned on.
It’s possible that the Madison County Industrial Development Authority will get help from the United States Department of Agriculture for major water line improvement/expansion in the county, perhaps to the tune of $8.5 million in grants and low-interest loans.
So, the IDA is now preparing for the potential expansion. The group agreed Monday night to pay engineering firm Peoples and Quigley Inc. $37,750 for a preliminary engineering report and an environmental report summarizing proposed water system improvements on a “broad scale” so they can apply for rural development funding that has been offered to them by the USDA.
According to utility director Steve Shaw, the funding for the project, if approved, will consist of 45 percent grant funds, with the remaining 55 percent obtained through a 40-year loan at 2.75 percent interest.
Shaw said a “ballpark figure” for the project is $8.5 million. He said Tuesday that USDA officials approached engineer Chris Quigley while he was working with them on a large sewer project for Oglethorpe County, asking if he knew of other counties that might be interested in federal funding.
Quigley suggested Madison County and another county, Shaw said. After doing some research through 2000 census information concerning population and income levels, USDA officials then met with IDA executive director Marvin White and Quigley, informing them that Madison County could qualify for a grant/loan package.
Shaw said USDA federal loans have always been available, but that the IDA has not dealt with them in the past because the interest rates were higher (around 5.5 percent) and no grant money was offered.
Shaw said presenting a plan to the USDA with a “broad band scope” was necessary to be considered for the funding. He added that it will be 18 months or so before the project, if approved, will even be ready for the bidding process.
“It takes a lot of paperwork,” Shaw said, saying the preliminary engineering report and the environmental reports are just the beginning of the process.
If the project moves forward, authority members estimate it would be about three years before any construction begins and five years or so before completion.
White said the proposed areas of expansion would encourage growth along the main corridors of Highways 106, 29 and 172 and primarily in the southern end of the county, south of Hwy. 98.
But White noted that the project also includes two areas in the county’s northern regions; the Harrison District near Royston and the Black’s Creek Church Road area near Jackson County, which already has Commerce-owned water lines.
Water line expansion plans for Harrison, which caused some contention among residents there, were recently dropped after funding through the state dried up. The contract with the city of Commerce for water service in the Black’s Creek area will expire in 2011, according to White.
If federal funding is approved, the county industrial authority may tackle these water projects:
•Royston and Franklin County interconnections in the Harrison area.
•The purchase of Commerce water mains in Madison County (the current water contract with Commerce ends in 2011), including an elevated tank.
•A water main along Hwy. 98 west of Ila.
•A water main south along Hwy. 106 from Ila to Fortson Road.
•A water main along Rogers Mill Road.
•An interconnection to Elbert County from Madison County northeast along Hwy. 172 to the Broad River.
•Services to other populated areas not yet identified and additional well developments and elevated tanks as needed.