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City to fund sewer near school site

COVINGTON - The City Council agreed Monday night to help fund a pump station and force main to provide sewer for property north of Covington Municipal Airport.

The property is part of hundreds of acres owned by the Industrial Development Authority along Airport Road and Ga. Highway 142, part of which is being targeted by the Newton County School System for a new school.

Currently, there is no sewer to that area, and it does not fall within any local utility's territory.

The area is already within Newton County Water and Sewerage Authority's water service territory, and the simplest solution would be to include it in the sewer service area as well, WASA Executive Director Mike Hopkins said.

"That way we don't have any future developers going to multiple entities for sewer and water," he said.

On Monday, the City Council agreed to participate in installation of a sewer pump station and 5,333 feet of force main at a cost not to exceed $125,000.

The total cost for the project is estimated to fall between $440,000 and $500,000.

The hope is that the project would be jointly funded by WASA, the school system and the Industrial Development Authority, Hopkins said.

With the closest sewer line of adequate size belonging to Covington, the sewage from the property would run into the city's system and be treated at the city's plant.

The city would be owed tap fees that, based on the estimated total build-out of the property and current tap fee charges, would total $2.1 million.

The city's participation in the pump station and force main would be deducted from tap fee costs to WASA, reducing the amount to about $1.98 million.

WASA will pay the city for capacity as tap fees are sold. WASA will also pay the city for all treatment costs associated with the sewage sent from the development to the city's treatment plant.

In a memo to the council and mayor dated April 6, City Manager Steve Horton made a case for city participation.

"This particular site, though presently owned by the Newton County Industrial Development Authority, has (been) vacant for some time now. Without sewer, large industrial users will be unable to fully utilize the property. The city's contribution could be looked upon as an investment in future jobs," he said.

Horton added that it's possible the property could be annexed into the city at some point, "so that potential industries that locate to the property may employ city services" and reap the benefit of the city's lower fire insurance rating.

Hopkins said Wednesday the WASA Board of Directors has yet to take action on the matter but has indicated support for the project.

WASA will petition the county for the sewer service area, and the request will then go to the Department of Community Affairs, he said.

As for the planned school, the Newton County School System would not provide details on the exact location that has been pinpointed or what grades the school would serve.

"The school system does not publicly discuss the acquisition of real estate until after the purchase, at which time any and all information is available to the public," Director of Public Relations Sherri Viniard said.

Crystal Tatum can be reached at crystal.tatum@newtoncitizen.com.