After completing a review of Piedmont’s water treatment plant, the Mobile engineering firm, CDG Engineers, informed the Piedmont City Council at Tuesday night’s meeting that the facility is in dire need of more than $550,000 in repairs and upgrades.
CDG Engineer Lance Armbrester commended Superintendent Jesse McKnight and his employees at the water department for an outstanding job of providing clean water for the city but added, “We’re concerned about the reliability of the water.”
Built in 1954 and last upgraded in 1971, the water treatment facility needs new pumps according to CDG Engineer Greg Ryland. He stressed that if the current pump were to stop working, no one is really sure if the backup would even operate.
McKnight added that while the facility is currently in full compliance with state regulators, the plant needs to be upgraded before significant problems arise. When asked by the council if the upgrades absolutely had to be done, McKnight responded, “No, we don’t have to have it done, but if it goes out tomorrow, we will. It’s a matter of time.”
Councilman Mark Harper reminded the council that before the last upgrades were performed in 1971, the city’s water had to be boiled before use. “I don’t think we want to get back there,” Harper said.
CDG Representative Jana Monday, presented funding options to the council, including a fund from the Alabama Department of Environmental Management, ADEM, established to provide funding for such a repair. After Monday informed the council that the deadline to apply had been moved up to June 10th, they voted to begin the pre-application process for the loan.
Monday also mentioned the possibility of receiving a $200,000 grant through the Appalachian Regional Commission; additionally, the council discussed the possibility using existing bond monies.
Calhoun County E911 Director Kevin Jenkins was on hand to discuss the county’s dispatch service and its potential advantages to the city of Piedmont, should the council decide to forgo its in-house dispatch service in favor of E911. According to Jenkins, some of the advantages include improved efficiency, faster emergency response times, increased accuracy, a reduction in liability for dispatch related errors, access to more information and a potentially significant cost savings to the city.
The potential cost savings would be in part due to a reduction in personnel, as the city would no longer need to employ a dispatcher. Council Member Frank Cobb questioned the savings, noting that being a in a small city, the Piedmont’s Police dispatcher does multiple jobs in addition to dispatching. As a result, the department would likely not see the proposed reduction in personnel. No action was taken by the council.
A series of resolutions were adopted, with the first committing $25,192 toward operating expenses for public transportation as part of the city’s agreement with the East Alabama Regional Planning and Development Commission.
Also passed, was a resolution authorizing the application for $450,000 in grant funds for sewer rehabilitation. The city would also commit $84,970 to complete the financing of the project.
The council approved bills for payment in the amount of $90,030.48 in addition to a payroll amount of $119,941.75 for a total of $209,972.23 with Cobb abstaining and Spears voting “No.”
Finally, during the mayor’s comments portion of the meeting, Mayor Bill Baker gave a report on the success of the newly opened aquatics center. According to Baker, the center has cleared over $7,000 since its May 26th Memorial Day opening. He called it a “tremendous success,” that’s “paying for itself.”
The next regular Piedmont City Council Meeting is scheduled for Tuesday, June 17th, at 6 pm.