Stephenville City Administrator Pat Bridges says that undertaking the long-postponed eastside sewer project – a proposed $16.5 million plan to repair and replace the 80 to 100 year old sewer infrastructure – is critical to the short and long-term health and safety of the people and businesses of the city.

The good news is it appears there may be a feasible way to pay for the project via an extremelyreasonable, long-term loan from the Texas Water Development Board, or TWDB, that won’t break the city’s budget or require a rate increase on citizens.

Bridges, Mayor Kenny Weldon, the city council, city staff, SEDA board members and Caaren Skrobarzyk, team manager, Brazos Region of the TWDB, addressed the issue head on at a Tuesday night work meeting at City Hall.

In documents supplied to the E-T by Nick Williams, director of Public Works, said the 2004 comprehensive plan identified the eastern side of the city as lacking in sewer connections and some of the existing system, in the older parts of the city, may be deteriorated in condition or not be able to handle the capacity of future development.

Williams added that the construction of the eastside sewer project will serve the potential development of approximately 19,000 acres [30 square miles] east, north and northwest of the current service area.

7 takeaways from Tuesday's meeting:

• The TDWB interest rate as of Saturday is 0.52 percent – compared to commercial rates of between 3 and 3.5 percent.

• There is a possible forgiveness of up to 30 percent of the loan from the state of Texas for which Stephenville may qualify.

• Applying for the loan does not obligate the city to borrow that entire $16.5 million, but does make it available.

• The loan forgiveness of 30 percent is not automatic; it depends on funds available from TWDB at the time.

• If the loan forgiveness is granted, it would eliminate $4.95 million from the $16.5 million cost of the project.

• After the discussion, the city council voted to approve a resolution allowing the city to apply for this financial assistance from the TWDB to fund the project.

• The city’s application must be filed by Sept. 23, but Nick Williams said he plans to file by this Thursday or Friday as these loans are considered on a first-come-first served basis.

Comments by city officials:

Pat Bridges: “This issue was identified earlier in this century in 2004, 2005 by citizens that put together the 2030 Comprehensive Plan and this particular issue, this challenge was ranked at the top in terms of water and sewer issues in the Comprehensive Plan.”

Alan Nix: “Even without the debt forgiveness, we could never achieve the low interest rate the Texas Water Development Board is offering as opposed to the much higher rates out in the open market.”

Mayor Weldon: “They [the TWDB] have done their due diligence and looked at our median income level against the chart that they use to determine loan forgiveness and 30 percent is what we qualify for.”