Arp digs deep to fix infrastructure woes

Published on Thursday, 18 May 2017 17:23 - Written by JACQUE HILBURN-SIMMONS, jasimmons@tylerpaper.com

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ARP - Terry Lowry grew up in Arp and knows where the town’s “bones” are buried.

His knowledge of local water and sewer infrastructure is based on first-hand experience - he serves as the town’s mayor, following in the footsteps of his father, who served in the 1960s.

Lowry’s dad was still mayor the last time Arp spent big bucks on a major line, connecting it into pipes installed in the 1940s.

Locals believe it’s only a matter of time before a major problem arises.

So rather than risk a catastrophic episode and prolonged hardship, Arp is pursuing something many towns prefer to avoid: investing in a longtime fix.

“We want to do it right,” Lowry said. “We can’t keep kicking the can down the road.”

 

INVESTING IN THE FUTURE

Arp is an old town with roots dating back to the 1860s.

Close to 1,000 people call it home, amounting to about 400 water customers.

Like many other Texas towns, the town seems to be on the cusp of change.

New people are moving to town. Small business owners are opening up shops on the main drag.

Old homes are getting a facelift. Tourists are pausing to look around.

“It’s a nice town,” said Casi Hammer, who recently went to work for the Police Department as an officer. “I’d heard some good things … I like being here.”

Lowry said he’s happy to see new faces around town, even though it means he and other local leaders must work harder on the less glamorous side of governing: making sure the infrastructure is adequate enough to support them.

Updating old pipes seems to be one of those projects many people don’t stop to consider or fully appreciate, until the toilet stops flushing, the mayor acknowledges.

But on a stormy night in April, as most eyes were tuned to the weather radar, Arp City Council members hunkered down and voted to spend $1.4 million on fixing issues ranging from aging streets to outdated piping.

“We passed an ordinance to issue certificates of obligation,” Lowry said.

The measure means Arp can refurbish certain sections of decaying or collapsing water and sewer lines and make the necessary related street repairs.

To help pay for the work, a local option for alcohol sales and a half-cent sales tax could both appear on the November ballot, the mayor said, noting also a rate hike for water usage is on tap.

In a related project, efforts are underway to secure grant money so the city can address some of its long-term needs, such as adding lines in underserved areas and possibly adding amenities to attract and retain young families.

“Our citizens are our customers,” the mayor said. “We’re trying to take care of them.”

 

ADDRESSING THE ISSUES

Improvements are planned for certain problem areas, such as in the area of Hollywood Drive and Wilson.

New sewer lines are to be added and a water line moved from the center of the road into the right-of-way.

Work also is planned for a portion of Main Street, which is plagued with water issues.

In other areas, compromised pipes are creating sinkholes in some high traffic areas, creating unnecessary wear and tear on both streets and automobiles.

Repairs are planned in those locations to remedy repeat leaks and outright outages.

“Where we kind of messed up is putting asphalt streets on top of it (old pipes),” he said. “When you dig up a city street, you dig up asphalt.”

And that gets costly over time because when a line breaks, crews must repair the problem and the street … over and over again, Lowry said.

Texas weather is also a factor, it appears.

Arp sits on a sloping terrain that allows excess water to enter the sewer system, increasing the potential for an overflow.

Last year’s extra heavy rainfall apparently swamped the web of underground pipes, triggering an investigation and possible fines from the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality.

“When we had that huge rain last year, the one where there was like seven inches in two hours, our sewer plant couldn’t handle it all,” the mayor said.

The state agency is giving the town an opportunity to fix the issues before actually assessing any fines.

Consequently, dirt is already flying in some areas and some residents said they are willing to pay for long-term peace of mind.

“It’s long overdue. In big rainfalls, you’ve basically got a big creek running down the street,” said resident Billy Ramey, who lives near the intersection of Hollywood and Parker. “As long as I can see my money at work, I’m happy. If you see your tax dollars at work, you don’t mind it as bad.”

TWITTER @ TMT _ Jacque