City awaiting word on funding to repair water infrastructure
By Shanna Cummings
The City of Van Horn is awaiting the results of a grant application submitted to the U.S. Economic Development Administration that would supply the funding for water infrastructure updates that would allow construction of commercial development like hotels to commence, bringing revenue into town.
Due to the commercial moratorium on water, construction on currently undeveloped land cannot begin until the city’s water infrastructure for the third pressure zone is updated. Plots with existing water lines and residential construction are not included in the moratorium.
In the meantime, developers are encouraged to submit their site development plans to the EDC for approval and the City for engineering review so construction can commence as soon as the moratorium is lifted.
The City’s grant application has been accepted for review and word from the EDA should come mid-November, EDC president Becky Brewster said. If the EDA grant isn’t approved, the City has to find other funding options. The water tower and boosters cost $2.5 million.
“The City can’t even afford to do a bond issue for $2.5 million,” Brewster told EDC board members. “To make those kinds of payments for that kind of money, we would have to probably greatly increase the water rates.” A tax bond would not generate enough to cover the cost, either.
“And we might end up having to go up for a vote for something like that, but what we can do with bonds is so little compared to what needs to be done that we’ve got to find alternative sources,” Brewster added. The money from the sale of the gas company has already been parceled out for other projects and grant matches, and wasn’t enough to tackle the cost of water infrastructure update anyway.
“So much is hinging on whether or not we get that grant application from the EDA,” Brewster said.
The City is working with an engineer for a plan to replace the water line that runs under Elm street, which feeds the third pressure zone. That project needs to coincide with installation of the new water tank and boosters to prevent problems in the future.
The City is also looking into the need for another water well.
“What we have right now: if every well is working like it’s supposed to, we’re ok with our existing population,” Brewster said. “But if one well goes down, then we’re out of compliance with the amount of water that we have to have pumping per capita.”
One ground storage tank was replaced on a two-year emergency basis and another is nearing “critical” status. Brewster said the City has the repair of storage tanks as a project for early 2022.
“If you do it periodically, the tanks can last 40 years or more. But if you don’t, then it starts rusting through like that other one did, and we’re in pretty bad straits.”
These smaller expenditures are in addition to the much larger overhaul of water lines that would cost around $15 million.
The board should receive the Site Development Plans for the Family Dollar/Dollar Tree for review and approval by the end of the year.
The Texas Department of Agriculture was scheduled to perform a pre-award site inspection ahead of a decision for the Downtown Revitalization Grant. Funds from this grant will pay for repair of the downtown sidewalk and lighting for three blocks on one side of Broadway.
Progress on the downtown parking lot has stalled, as no proposals were submitted in reply to the bids.
The board elected to keep their current roles: Becky Brewster, president; Ben File, vice president; Laura Reyes, Secretary; Rosario Yglecias, Treasurer.