|Polk County Enterprise - Local News
Copyright 2013 - Polk County Publishing Company
Livingston to raise water/sewer rates on Oct. 1
BY BRIAN BESCH
LIVINGSTON —The City of Livingston unanimously approved a hike in water and sewer rates Tuesday in a special meeting. The rate increase will help satisfy the pledge of net revenues of the combined water and sanitary sewer system to pay debt on the Trinity River Authority (TRA) contract revenue bonds for a $18.6 million overhaul of the Livingston regional water supply system project. The current plant has been in place for 32 years after it was expected to operate for 25 years. It is currently operating above its average rated limit. Preliminary design work on the new plant began in January 2011. After gaining a rough idea of what was needed, a design agreement was made in December of 2011, according to Jim Sims, Southern Region Manager for TRA. "The project itself is pretty much a complete rebuild of this water plant system," Sims said. "We're replacing three small lines with two larger lines and they're about 400 feet in length, so there is a total of about 800 feet of line that has to be put in by a micro-tunneling process. The lines themselves will give us greater capabilities to withdraw water. The new lines will increase the pumping depth an additional seven feet, 20 feet below normal pool elevation of the reservoir." Engineers at TRA estimated the bid to be around $12.5 million, while the lowest bid came in at over $16.1 million from Layne Heavy Civil in Dallas. Layne Heavy Civil is a division of Layne Western and brings in approximately $350 million in similar water and sewer work. Sims said that after a conversation with the director of utilities for the City of Houston, the belief is that contractors are busy enough to bid higher than what they normally would, without concern of losing the bid. The highest bid was submitted from Gracon Construction, located in Mesquite. Engineering costs will be $1.2 million and expenses such as inspection, testing and a construction contingency will be an additional $1.2 million. Bond sale expenses will bring the total bill to over $20.6 million for the new plant. The plant will be paid for over 25 years. The annual debt service (principal plus interest) will be approximately $1.2 million per year. The total interest paid on the debt over 25 years will be over $10.1 million. Other cities, such as Houston, also use water pumped from Lake Livingston. However, Sims said that will not be an issue for the City of Livingston. "There is always going to be a provision for whatever we do, the contract will have a continuance clause," Sims said. TRA has to declare on customers like Livingston how we are going to take care of your long-term needs and it is by contract extension. In terms of the water, you'll never have a problem, it will always be here." The plant is again expected to operate for the next 25 years. According to City Manager Marilyn Sutton, the average residential water bill will increase $5.58 per month and the average sewer bill will increase $5.67 per month. Commercial water bills will increase by an average of $13.93 per month and sewer will increase the same amount. The Polunsky Unit would pay an increase of $355,000 annually for water and an increase of $285,000 annually. The Polunsky Unit represents about 50 percent of the water usage in the city. The city generated $4.1 million from water and sewer last year. The city collected $3.3 million of that from its top 10 customers.