Council disappointed with attendance at city meeting
Peabody’s city council members were discouraged by the lack of residents present Monday for discussion of how to fund an upgrade of the city’s water lines.
“I wish more people were here,” councilman Travis Wilson said. “I don’t want to push anything without a lot of peoples’ input. I’d like to see us send a letter in bright orange or green with the options we’re looking at.”
Since there were only 10 residents present, the council could propose a stiff rate hike to get more people interested, resident Janice Woodruff said.
“Say you’re raising it by $30 and see how many people show up,” she said. “I’m serious, they’ll show up then.”
Charging a higher rate might be preferable if the project could finish sooner, Linda Martinez said.
“The longer it takes, the harder it is to keep mental momentum positive,” she said. “The longer you wait it out, the more changes there could be.”
Mayor Tom Spencer said he met with Hillsboro water supervisor Morgan Marler, who budgets $45 per linear foot for water line replacement with the goal to complete three to five blocks per year in Hillsboro.
However, Peabody has no specific amount that annually goes toward sewer line replacement, and no funds allocated toward water line replacement.
Adding a charge to water bills to get the water line replacement fund started was suggested, with amounts ranging from $10 to $30.
“I don’t think there’s a plan where we could ever do a water line replacement throughout the city all at once,” councilman Jay Gfeller said. “What I think is evident is that we have aged infrastructure for sewer and water. Obviously things have to be done.”
A $10 increase of the city’s water bills, would give the city $66,000 annually. That would be enough money over five years to pay its portion of a possible grant, councilman Travis Wilson said.
“If we could tie it in with a grant, that could be a million-dollar project,” he said. “We’d have $300,000 and could say here’s our chunk.”
Grants are available through U.S. Department of Agriculture and other programs, but the city is required to have 25% of funds available before applying, and the grant would cover the remaining 75%.
Once set up as a designated fund, the money can only be used for water line replacement, but there is some flexibility over how future council’s define that, Gfeller said.
Across the board, council members expressed a desire to generate the funds in-house, as opposed to taking out loans.
One concern is that any debris dislodged from old pipes could end up in the water tanks of residents, councilman Rick Reynolds said.
“What kind of kickback is the city going to have if this big chunk of sludge comes through, plugs a brand new hot water tank and burns it up because there’s no water flowing through,” he said. “It’s going to happen, and my hot water tank was $985.”
Last modified Sept. 25, 2019