Should Jackson County dip into its reserves to fund a $300,000 study aimed at selecting a site for a new reservoir?
That’s the question the commissioners will mull, but they’ve got to make a quick decision.
The county’s water engineers say $294,400 is the cost of the next phase of a water resources study, one result of which would be an application for state grant funds to help build the reservoir.
With the application deadline of Aug. 29, time’s a-wasting.
In a joint meeting of the commissioners and the water and sewerage authority Thursday night, Prime Engineering’s Rob MacPherson went over the scope of the project. The work will have to be done if the county builds a reservoir, MacPherson noted, but authorizing it quickly gives the county a shot at some of the $40 million set aside by a drought-conscious General Assembly.
The water authority would like to proceed, but with its finances crippled by restricted water sales, it has no money.
Authorizing Prime to proceed is no guarantee it can put together a successful application by Aug. 29.
“But I’ll tell you this,” MacPherson said. “If you don’t apply for it, you get nothing.”
Board of Commissioners Chairman Pat Bell appeared to support the project, but insisted that the authority and the BOC form an advisory committee similar to one established to select road priorities.
In the initial stage of the process, Prime analyzed existing water supplies and their potential for expansion, calculated growth rates and future demand, identified 13 potential sites for possible reservoirs and narrowed the field to three. The next phase is to do a full analysis to determine which of the three is best suited to provide a drinking water reservoir — and what its cost will be.
“We’d have to tap into our reserves,” said District 2 Commissioner Jody Thompson, who also speculated that funding the study might “be the best money we could spend.”
Concerned about the level of debt the county currently has, Thompson suggested that the commissioners may want to re-visit its current road bond issue to find the funding. The county recently authorized more than $40 million in debt to build roads it believes will hasten economic development. The idea is that taxes from that development and the increases the roads cause in property values will more than cover the bond payments.