CHIPLEY — The Chipley City Council voted on Wednesday to take the first step in seeking grant funding for repairing the city’s aging waterlines and to expand the city’s water system to south of Interstate 10.
Meeting in a special session, the council heard a presentation from H. Douglas Bruce and Tom Bryant, consultants from the firm Doug Bruce & Associates of Tallahassee, who told the council members of the steps necessary to seek federal grants for waterline repairs.
“I had talked to Mayor (Linda) Cain about the needs of the city, and we understand you have an issue with unaccounted water,” Bruce said. “The Legislature has appropriated funds to address these types of issues.”
Bruce said the city could apply for grants and funding by using the services of a consulting firm at no cost to the city. The consulting firm would be paid a percentage of whatever grant monies eventually are secured, and the percentage is negotiated between the city and the consultants.
The city would first seek a planning grant of up to $300 for hiring consultants and engineers to come up with the necessary designs for improvements. The grants are typically 75-25 matching grants, Bruce said, which means the city would be responsible for $75,000 on a $300,000 grant.
“We don’t have the money, but I would hate to see us miss the opportunity,” said council member Karen Rustin.
Resident and real estate broker Gary Hartman told the council that extending water service south of I-10 could mean economic growth for the city’s interstate corridor.
“If the water is there, the businesses will come,” Hartman said, noting that while a hotel could not be built without city sewer services, restaurants could function on city water and a septic tank. “Restaurants definitely need city water, if they operate on a well, then they have to have their water tested every month,” Hartman said.
He said interested businesses have looked at the land in the past, but due to lack of water and sewer utilities, nothing has been done with the property.
The city also loses between 22 and 27 percent of its water supply due to leaks, City Administrator Dan Miner said. Improving the water retention would save energy and make the water service more profitable, as well as saving energy, Bruce said. The energy savings for the city’s water plant could be sufficient cause to receive a grant for the repairs.
The first step, Bruce explained, is to secure the services of a consulting firm. He recommended the city publish a Request For Qualifications and begin the process of searching for a consultant.
The council agreed and voted to proceed with the preparation of an RFQ.
“The last 5-7 years we’ve not had the chance to do this,” the mayor said. “I’d hate to not take the chance. It’s not going to slip away from us because we didn’t try.”
“If we don’t do something, we’re never going to get anything done,” Rustin said. “But I do not want to leave our children’s children in debt.”