By Sterling McGinn
Newberry Village manager Allison Watkins announced at the September meeting of the village council that Newberry did not receive funding from the 2024 Drinking Water State Revolving Fund, (SRF) which would be used for improvements to areas of aging infrastructure and for the state mandated lead service line replacement.
The meeting took place in the village council chambers on Tuesday, September 19 at 6 p.m. All members of the board were in attendance that evening and only two members of the public were present.
“Unfortunately, we were not given any funding for 2024,” said Watkins. “We were asking for $10.5 million for lead service line repair, water main repairs and a new water tower. We were not offered any money at all. We were much higher on the list than we were last year…this was the best chance we had to get any funding.”
The Drinking Water SRF consists of funds from Federal Covid money and many communities across the state were competing for these funds.
Without the funds, the village is looking for ways to carry on without major water rate increases.
Watkins said the state awarded higher amounts to a small list of municipalities this year.
The village water tower is one of the crucial pieces of infrastructure that is past needing replacement. The tower was constructed in 1937, and the tank is significantly undersized for the needs of the community.
Old water mains also an need to be addressed. There is currently a mile of the systems 76,887 feet of watermain that has not been upgrades. These are old sandcast iron mains with no cement lining that contain a high presence of iron bacteria. New ductile iron water mains would improve the bacteria issue and reduce leakage.
The village needs to be in full compliance with the state’s mandated lead line replacement by year 2040. This mandate came in response to the Flint water crisis. Any service line from a residence in the village limits that is not of copper must be replaced all the way to the curb. The village is required to submit an inventory of service lines of the village by 2025.
Watkins feels the village is not as competitive for funding since there is no lead in the water and there are no violations from the wastewater treatment plant.
“Our system is in pretty good shape due to the SRF for the wastewater treatment plant and the big loan they took out for water in 2014,” she said.
The village will continue applying for SRF grant and loan funding in the future. The village will file the 2025 intent to apply form in October and start the application process over again.
Watkins plans to keep having conversations with legislators for more funding for the lead service line update.
“We are doing everything we can to avoid having to pay for the water projects out of pocket,” she said. “We have not discussed any significant increase in water rates for these projects, however an incremental increase will be needed soon to keep up with the rising cost of operations.”
In other news, the board was updated on the 2023 Clean Water SRF project. The village received $512,000 in grant money and a $512,000 loan to help pay for relining a number of sewer pipes in the village.
A contract has been signed with the firm hired to reline the pipes.
“We anticipate right now that the project will start in the next few weeks and their plan is to try and get it done before November,” said Watkins.