City gives nod to engineering work for water projects

Photo by Howard Reed

Photo by Howard Reed

COVINGTON -- The Covington City Council recently approved bids totaling approximately $56,000 for engineering work on two water line projects in preparation for applying for financial assistance for both projects.

City officials are attempting to obtain a Community Development Block Grant from the Department of Community Affairs to improve water lines along Geiger Street and North Banks, Hudson, Need, Moore, W. Durden, E. Durden and Maddox streets.

The water lines are mostly 2-inch galvanized and asbestos cement pipe and have a restricted water flow due to deposits that have built up, according to the city's grant writer, Randy Conner. The lines are more than 75 years old. There are no fire hydrants on side streets because the pipes are too small. The project would entail upgrading the pipes and adding fire hydrants.

The estimated cost of the project is $536,000, with up to 90 percent available through the grant.

"The anticipated awards for this coming year will be less than those in 2010 due to the economy and cuts in funding from Washington," Conner said in a memo to the City Council. "Our discussions with DCA lead us to believe that next year's awards will be roughly 10 percent less than in 2010. Because the competition will be even greater in 2011, we need the added points that a shovel ready project will provide."

Proceeding with engineering will give the city additional points and a better chance of getting the grant, he said.

A similar situation exists on Elizabeth Street, where pipes are also 2 inches and aging, water flow is restricted and there are few fire hydrants. The city will seek a loan through the Georgia Environmental Financing Authority's State Revolving Funds Program for that project, which will include new water lines and fire hydrants at an estimated to cost of $675,000.

The city would be eligible for forgiveness on the loan of more than $200,000 with the balance financed on a 20-year amortization rate of 3 percent. The yearly debt service would be $31,500. Conner said engineering work was needed to strengthen the city's application.

Engineering costs on the two projects total $55,915. Officials had budgeted $57,000 so there was no additional impact to the budget.

Councilman Chris Smith opposed the motion to approve the bid on the Geiger Street project, saying that he would like to see more work done in house to save the city money.

"We've got an engineering staff and here we are paying an engineer to do the work," Smith said. "If we can save money by doing it in-house, that's what we need to do."

City Engineer Tres Thomas said it would be possible for the city's engineering department to do the work but difficult to meet the March deadline, given its current workload. City Manager Steve Horton said the city has two engineers on staff who do some projects in house but can't do them all, although they do oversee the projects done by contractors and make sure they are up to standard.