LEESVILLE--The City of Leesville has reevaluated its priority list for the water system and has devised a two-phase plan for addressing issues within the system, using a $2 million budget left over from a $4.8 million loan from the Department of Health and Hospitals in 2013 and capital outlay.
The City plans to install a new water storage tank this spring at the water facility on Mechanic Street and First Street at a cost of about $1 million.
The new tank will provide the City with several key opportunities:
to service the existing tank without the loss of thousands of gallons of water
to remove approximately two feet of sand in the bottom, which will increase storage capacity
to install an electronic chlorination system for the existing tank.
In all, the construction of a new tank will drastically improve efficiency and create a backup system in the event that one tank fails.
The Public Works Department, under the direction of Ricky West, and at a cost of approximately $28,000, will also be moving forward with repairing 28 fire hydrants within the City, which is expected to lower the City's current percentage of monthly water loss to a single digit.
Once Phase 1 is complete, the City will move into a monitoring and planning phase, looking for the areas where the highest volume of water loss occurs within the City and planning the most efficient path of water line replacement.
"We know that our water system is old and needs to be replaced," said Mayor Allen. "However, I propose the best path forward is to replace lines as needed with capital outlay funds and avoid obligating the City to a debt service that would likely result in increased utility rates."
The Current State of the Water System
Since the summer of 2014, the Public Works Department of the City of Leesville has systematically repaired water leaks throughout the City, reducing the City's water loss from 63 percent in 2014 to the current 17 percent, which has been holding steady for the last two months and is well below the average experienced by nearby cities DeRidder, Natchitoches, Alexandria and Jasper, Texas.
"Our Public Works Department and City Administrator have worked hard to get us out of a situation that was fast becoming an emergency," said Mayor Allen. "I'd like to recognize their hard work and dedication."
The first step, according to Mayor Allen, was to fix more than 280 obvious leaks, which was accomplished in the summer of 2014, reducing the water loss in the City from 63 percent to 40 percent.
"After fixing the obvious leaks, we went to every stream and creek that exits in the City and tested for chlorine," he added. "If chlorine was present, we walked upstream until we found the water leak. The result was that we were able to fix 20 more major leaks that had gone undetected for years, simply because they were in the woods."
The second step reduced water loss from 40 percent to 25 percent.
Next, the City launched a campaign encouraging city residents to report leaks. Public Works was then dispatched to every leak for repairs, bringing the average monthly water loss to its current status of only 17 percent, well below the average experienced by neighboring cities.
Because of the sustained reduction in water loss over the last year, expenditures in the Water Department have been reduced by 27 percent and services have improved, helping the City to not only avoid a hike in utility service fees but to also avoid obligating the City to a monthly debt service to the USDA. In addition, the improvements have helped to create a surplus in funds.
"Now that the City has a surplus, we're in a great position to provide the required 25 percent match for capital outlay, which opens up the possibility of securing up to $500,000 a year with the help of Senator John Smith and Representative James Armes," said Mayor Allen.
Capital outlay can fund smaller, high priority upgrades to the City's water system on a rolling priority basis, rather than trying to rebuild the entire water system from scratch, a much more costly endeavor.
In 2014, the City was approved for a loan of more than $11 million to help fund the replacement of its entire water system. In conjunction with the loan, the City would also receive a $3.7 million grant and principle forgiveness in the amount of $1,1 million, for total funding of about $16.1 million.
However, the funding would obligate the City to pay $49,000 each month for 44 years.
In addition, since most water systems need to be replaced after 30 years, the City would find itself in the same position three decades from now, while also continuing to service a debt for 14 more years.
The City's only revenue stream is the Water Department; however, USDA would require that the City relinquish control of its revenue for the duration of the loan, effectively tying up any surplus the City might have that could be used toward other projects.