Oconee commission to borrow for water, sewer projects

Oconee County officials recently decided to borrow $15 million to finance water and sewer projects.

 

The bonds will be used to pay for a large upgrade of the county’s Calls Creek wastewater treatment facility, to add a water storage tower in the northwest part of the county, and to pay about $2 million in debt that dates from 2003 and 2009, Oconee County Wes Geddings told commissioners in a Tuesday meeting.

Commissioners unanimously approved borrowing the money. The revenue bonds will be repaid with future revenues from fees charged to water and sewer customers. The county’s public utilities department operates as an enterprise fund, for the most part paying for its own costs rather than relying on tax money, except for the millions of dollars in voter-approved Special Local Option Sales Tax funds, which will pay for expanding the county’s water delivery and sewage collection systems.

The largest part of the borrowed money, about $13.4 million, will pay for expanding the Calls Creek wastewater treatment plant near Watkinsville. The overtaxed facility was responsible for some large spills of sewage water into the creek more than two years ago. County officials also discovered they had oversold future rights to tap into the sewer system. The county has now spent about $3.2 million buying back sewer allocations.

The new water storage facility, estimated to cost about $2 million, will provide heightened water pressure, and therefore increased fire protection for the growing area of the new Dove Creek Elementary School now under construction in the northwestern part of the county.

The county will save about $30,000 by buying back the unpaid debt, and gain access to a reserve fund, Geddings said.

 

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