Grant process underway for residents seeking water

Published on Thursday, 20 November 2014 17:14 - Written by BY FAITH HARPER, fharper@tylerpaper.com

REKLAW — The Reklaw city council approved moving forward with a grant on Tuesday evening to provide residents in the rural community of Fairview with running water, but it could be more than a year before water begins flowing into homes.

The Fairview community, located about three miles from the city on the border of Rusk and Cherokee Counties, has never had running water.

Reklaw will seek grant funds to help with the project, but would also be required to drill another well to supply enough water for the added homes.

The city contracted the engineering firm Schaumberg & Polk to do a study of its current water system and its weaknesses to see if it is capable of the added capacity. They also contracted Gary R. Traylor and Associates, a grant management firm, to help find any grants to offset costs of the project.

Allen Ross, representative for Schaumberg & Polk, told council members the city’s system is in good shape, especially considering it was constructed in the 1960s. However, it needs upgrades.

“For the most part the system — it’s been maintained well,” Ross said. “The city takes care of what it’s got, and it is in good shape.”

However, the city’s wells are not physically capable of pulling enough groundwater to supply its residents. The city operates on two wells, and they are pulling 118 gallons of water per minute, short of the required 129 gallons per TCEQ regulations, Ross said.

“The wells are 60-plus years old,” he said. “They are not in imminent danger of failing, but as of now they do not produce enough water.”

The city would also need to fix a few minor pipes and update its plant — all for a price of about a $1 million.

Ross said the city applied for a loan through the Texas Water Development Board, but has not yet heard if the request was approved. How the loan would be paid back, if approved, has not been settled. The city may issue a certificate of obligation, raise water rates or issue bonds.

Gary Traylor, owner of Traylor and Associates, said the city could qualify for the Small Towns and Environment Program (STEP) thorough the Texas Department of Agriculture.

“We have been working with the consulting engineers,” Traylor told council members. “We recognize a pipeline placed from here to Fairview will not help the people in Fairview unless there is some water to put in it.”

If the city is approved to participate in the STEP program, it could receive up to $350,000, which would not require the city to match funds.

Traylor said the grant requires a “good deal” of community involvement in implementing the grant. It is intended to pay for the materials while community members supply the labor.

He said it could potentially pay for part of the costs of drilling a new well, but state officials and the city would have to have a sit-down discussion to line out the details.

The city would have to address its low water distribution to qualify for the grant.

“We are going to need a well sooner or later,” Mayor Harland Crawford said.

Traylor said even after the council approved moving forward with applying for the STEP grant, it would take time and the appropriate paperwork before groundwork could begin. He apologized to a group of residents in the room because it would take a year to a year-and-a-half before the community received water for the first time.

“I think it’s good to avoid creating unrealistic expectations,” he said. “I want to make it clear under the best circumstance I cannot find a way to obtain grant funds and address this problem and get it done, where you would not be going through another summer without water.”

Crawford told Fairview residents the council would continue looking for ways to get them running water.

“We are going to continue going forward with this,” he said. “I sympathize with you.”