Just days after breaking ground on its largest construction project ever, the Georgetown City Council gave final approved for its second largest project ever, a $24.1 million sewer project for Georgetown Municipal Water and Sewer System (GMWSS) to run south down U.S. 25.
Called the South Sewer Extension, the project began as a way to provide sewer service to Georgetown Mobile Estates, a group of three large mobile home parks on the Scott-Fayette County lines. The sewage package plants servicing those mobile home parks are failing, and raw sewage has been found in Cane Run Creek which feeds into Elkhorn Creek and the water system that provides water for Georgetown. The project has since expanded to eventually be able to include sewer services to an area on the bypass that is within the city limits, and eventually eliminate seven-to-eight pumping stations which are aging and will soon have to be repaired or replaced, said Chase Azevedo, GMWSS general manager.
On April 16, GMWSS broke ground on the construction of a new $48.9 million Waste Water Treatment Plant No. 1 as the plant it is replacing is near its capacity and is in disrepair. GMWSS is owned by the city.
The council gave unanimous approval to the sewer line extension during its regular meeting Monday after the GMWSS board of directors voted unanimously Friday in a special meeting. Mayor Tom Prather praised the council and the GMWSS board for their actions.
“The GMWSS board is a pretty conservative group,” Prather said. “They have traditionally operated with little debt, so approving these two projects is a big deal. Their debt ratio has gone from about 11 percent to about 80 percent.
“But it’s is the right thing to do. It is an appropriate use of debt.”
“What choice do we really have?” he said noting the problems with the existing waste water treatment plant and the environmental issues because of the failing package plants at he mobile home parks.
The meeting was almost four-and-a-half hours long as the council discussed the sewer project, the upcoming fiscal year budget and the possibility of creating a storm water utility fee. Discussions on the storm water utility were preliminary and several council members openly expressed reservations, although several pointed out the ongoing flooding issues in parts of the city when there are heavy rains.
A firm was authorized to continue with its research on the funding options and methodology and if there is need for such a utility. No decision was made.
Early in this administration Prather targeted the need for an operational sewage system for the three mobile home parks that make of Georgetown Mobile Estates: Spindletop, Ponderosa and Georgetown Estates. The parks currently have 380 mobile homes and could serve as many as 500, Azevedo said. The mobile home parks are currently owned by a banking investment firm after foreclosure and they are currently for sale.
“They are not interested in running a mobile home park,” Prather said about the investment firm. “But because of the current condition of the sewer package plants, the parks have no real value. By agreeing to this project, the parks will become marketable.”
It has taken almost six years to get to this point because of the changes in the ownership of the mobile home parks, the complicated financing involving private and public entities as well as the fact the mobile home parks are not within Georgetown’s city limits. The mobile home parks rest right on the Scott-Fayette County lines, with one partially inside Fayette County. Two nearby mobile home parks on Lisle Road are not part of the project.
The package plants serving the mobile home parks have been failing for years, dumping raw sewage into Cane Run Creek which feeds into Elkhorn Creek and Royal Spring aquifer, which is Georgetown’s source of water.
The city has cobbled together some $3.8 million in loans and grants, including a $1.075 million grant originally given to the Scott County Fiscal Court by the state legislature to build a reservoir that ended when the U.S. Corps of Engineers declined to approve the plan; another $250,000 cash from the fiscal court, $475,000 from Lexington, $750,000 in a 319 federal grant through the Clean Water Act, $250,000 from the City of Georgetown and a $1 million grant through Kentucky Infrastructure Authority (KIA).
The remainder of the project — about $21.9 million — will be financed with a 30-year loan at a half-percent interest to Georgetown through KIA. The owners of Georgetown Mobile Estates will be responsible for $5.658 million of the project through privilege fees of $591,388 and a bond. GMWSS will be responsible for $14.66 million, which will be recouped through user fees from the mobile home parks and the new area within the city limits on the bypass, and improved efficiencies due to the removal of the pumping stations among other improvements.
“But make no mistake,” Prather said. “The city is directly on the line for this. It’s our loan.”
Prather and Azevedo each discussed the complexity of the overall project which requires easements on 21 properties. Easements have been obtained on 20 of those properties and the city has filed a condemnation notice on the remaining property, officials said.
At some point in the project Georgetown will “lease” the areas where the package plants rest so they can be disassembled and decommissioned. This is necessary because the city’s funds cannot be used on private property, but the city assume no risk when this happens, said city officials. The current owners of Georgetown Mobile Estates have stipulated that any agreements regarding these improvements will be part of the agreement should the property be sold.
The project should be completed around May or June of 2023 and will coincide with the operational opening of the new waste water treatment plant, Azevedo said.
Prather and Azevedo each emphasized the project will protect the greenbelt between the city limits and the project area as required in the county’s comprehensive plan. Both men said the existence of sewer lines will encourage development, but the project as agreed to by the council will authorize sewer hookups only for the areas of land already developed and prohibits any extensions.
In other business, the council:
— Approved special event permits for a Fourth of July parade, which will be tentatively held on July 3 at 11 a.m. because July 4 is a Sunday and the Finley 5K Run, which is set for Sept. 18.
— The mayor alerted the council that the 2021-22 fiscal year budget will be in their hands in two weeks. The council must approve the budget by the end of June as the city’s fiscal year begins July 1.
Mike Scogin can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.