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Oxford takes step to repair aging water lines

OXFORD - The City of Oxford adopted a resolution at its Monday meeting to apply for a Community Development Block Grant in order to repair 1,500 feet of water lines.

About one month ago, Oxford Mayor Jerry Roseberry said the Georgia Environmental Protection Division advised the city that it was one of the cities in the state needing to address its aging water lines, some of which were installed in the 1950s and 1960s.

"It's part of (the EPD's) new drinking water program," Roseberry said. "They are making sure the water that's pumped into homes is good quality water."

Roseberry said the city doesn't have a specific deadline for replacing the aging water lines, but the city is hoping to take action as soon as funds are available.

"It's on the list for the city to address; if they don't do it now, (EPD) will keep bringing it up again and again," said Frank Sherrill, Oxford's engineer for the project.

The state isn't providing any funds to the city for the project, so the city is having to look elsewhere.

"This isn't an option for the city (to replace its water lines); we're trying to find the best financial way," Roseberry said.

To be eligible to get the block grant this year, an application must be sent by April 1.

The grant provides funds for housing, public facilities and economic development in areas with more than 70 percent low- to moderate-income residents. It could provide $466,000 to the $712,000 project; the block grant funds would be used for construction and administration fees for 11 streets - or 261 residents - in Oxford, including part of Emory Street and roads in Oxford Square.

Other water lines in the city not under low- to moderate-income streets, including Bonnell and Stone streets and three others totaling 25 residents, could be funded through a $246,000 loan from the Drinking Water State Revolving Loan Fund, administered by the Georgia Environmental Facilities Authority at a rate of 3 percent.

Debra Smith, a grant writer from Allen-Smith Consulting, said during the city's public hearing Wednesday the city will be notified if it receives the block grant in August and would receive the award at a workshop in September.

She said the grant program typically receives between 175 and 200 applications each year and funds between 65 and 75 of those received.

"About 95 percent of the time, they fund most of the money," she said. "(The recipient) usually gets the full amount they request."

If the grant is approved, the city will hold another public hearing for residents to discuss how and when the project will be started; the city also will hold another public hearing after the project is completed.

Sherrill said the project to replace the water lines could be under way in about a year.

Roseberry said the affected residents, as well as residents in any other part of the city, will not have an increase in water rates and will not have to pay for the services.

Sherrill said the block grant requests looks favorable to the city, but he suggested that if the city does not get the block grant this year that it should suspend its loan until it receives the grant.

"You should score well (on the grant), but there are no guarantees," he said.

Roseberry said the Georgia EPD did not notify Oxford of any other water lines that are of concern.

Michelle Floyd can be reached at michelle.floyd@newtoncitizen.com.