Robbins Studies Water Proposal From County
Robbins is considering a proposal by Moore County for inclusion in a new water district.
A regional plan that would take advantage of Robbins' plentiful water sources could give town residents lower rates, serve West End and Seven Lakes and make both the town and county less dependent on other counties for water.
The one question on the mind of every Robbins town commissioner was whether the county would include all its water infrastructure - meaning take over wastewater as well as water supply. If that could be done, Robbins would be free of limitations on town growth because of requirements that it provide all town services to any newly annexed areas.
The Northwest Moore Water District (NWMWD) was formed in 2004. Voters approved a $16 million bond issue. But construction of the system was delayed because too few possible customers signed up to generate enough revenue to fund it.
Recently, the Moore County Board of Commissioners agreed to extend that $16 million bond issue. Those bonds are still available and can legally be extended for another three years, pending approval by the Local Government Commission.
The Robbins Town Board took a first look at the county proposal at a recent work session and will go over it in detail to formulate a written response at a May 5 special meeting. Three commissioners at the work session were positive about the county's offer, and all wanted more time to read it carefully before making any official response.
The new idea overcomes problems from too small a customer base by combining towns. Using 2,600 customers from Seven Lakes/West End and adding 640 customers from Robbins, the proposed combined district would then be large enough to support the new system. It would result in a water district encompassing the existing NWMWD, the town of Robbins, and the Seven Lakes voting precinct.
"This proposal has several contingencies that must be established by consensus or by required commitments in order to accomplish the successful implementation of the district," the county said. "Acceptance of the proposal to join together to form a viable NWMWD will require an initial resolution by each of the three boards agreeing."
The county proposes to combine all water facilities in the Seven Lakes water system that encompasses Seven Lakes West, North and South, McLendon Hills and West End.
Those facilities include some 66 miles of ductile iron and PVC water pipe, two elevated water towers (both completely rehabilitated since 2008), a booster pump station and the entire customer base located in those areas listed above. There is presently no debt associated with the Seven Lakes system.
For its part, Robbins would then agree to include all water facilities in town. That would include Robbins' water lines both in and out of town, three elevated water storage towers and the customer base of the Robbins water system.
According to the county proposal, the town's reservoir and its raw water impoundment and intake structure would be included - though the proposal did not specify whether that "inclusion" would be by deed or by lease.
The 2009 McGill water study indicated that the Charles B. Brooks reservoir would need $123,000 and the town's raw water intake and pump station $273,000 in improvements to become minimally operational. Existing debt service on the Robbins water and sewer system is about $100,000 a year, according to the McGill report.
The county proposes to build a treatment plant near the reservoir that would have a capacity of 1.5 million gallons per day at an estimated $8.5 million cost and construct a booster station and water line of sufficient size to serve Seven Lakes from the Robbins system for another estimated $3.6 million, bringing the total expenditure to about $12.1 million, including necessary repairs.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) could lend money for the required improvements through its Rural Development funds.
"The USDA can loan the district the necessary funds in order to construct the required improvements," the county proposal says. "Terms are basically at market rate interest, but for a 40-year term. The $16 million approved by the voters must be spent by May 2014."
That means all construction would have to be substantially complete by that date.
Two existing grants are also available. Robbins has one for $433,700, and Moore County one for $477,900.
These funds could be rolled into the project if the Robbins board passes a resolution to allow the new district to use these funds and the county commission passes a resolution agreeing to apply its funds to the project.
The county would then contract to operate the water business in areas served by NWMWD, including all maintenance of equipment, pumps and other equipment supply necessary operators and administrative personnel, read water meters, bill customers, receive payments and generally perform the functions of the district.
Impact on Rates
The Robbins commissioners said they wanted to know in more detail what they could expect rates to be, if this comes about.
The proposal suggests a base rate of $17 a month (based on 3,240 customers) but stops short of predicting the cost per 1,000 gallons. It does not say what the final rate might be.
If Robbins' overall rate "may" be reduced, the commissioners said they would like to know more about how much it could drop.
They also said they would like to know whether the town can keep title to its reservoir, which affects the town's borrowing ability, and whether it can get out of the water business altogether by joining this regional plan.
Contact John Chappell at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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