Water boards seek $13M

By Lucas Lord

As Cass County awaits the distribution of a second wave of American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funds in May, several of the county’s water districts have submitted construction requests. Representatives from those water districts attended the commissioners meeting Feb. 24 to request a total of $13 million in ARPA funds for a variety of projects.

“As you all know, the county has been approving a record high number of building permits and they are building in our districts,” said Cathy Edwards from Public Water Supply District 11. “That means we got more going on with lines that need to be improved and upgraded.”

She showed a map of the service area of the county’s water districts.

“You can see that there are a lot of districts here in Cass County that serve a lot of people,” she said.

An unexpected side effect of rapid development in recent years, Edwards said, was the stress on aging water lines. According to Edwards, she was worried about declining water pressure as a result of such expansion.

“When we are trying to service everybody, sometimes if we have an influx of usage, it may create a situation where customers will have low-pressure experiences,” Edwards said. “In our district alone, we are looking to replace over six miles of piping. Our last quarter mile extension ran us $450,000. We could make good use of that (ARPA) money within our districts to improve our systems and provide better service to our customers. We need to be able to guarantee that they will have water.”

Presenting a breakdown of each district’s proposal was Rick McGee from the Water Supply District 9. According to McGee, even though he knew it was unlikely every request would be approved, any amount of funding would make a difference.

“I know we’ve all talked with you privately before, but what’s in front of you is our actual paper request,” McGee said. “What we’ve done is taken every water district and made a short version of their request. The total of all district requests is $13 million. We’ve broken each request down in order from districts 1 to 12 to make it easier for you to understand. The good thing is the majority of these projects have already been engineer approved and just need approval from the county.

“We do a hydraulic study every five years on a number of lines, so the ones needing repairs are listed in order of importance. Overall, we are trying to increase pressure and create interconnects between districts so if one goes down the other can provide for them.”

Presiding Commissioner Bob Huston said he was grateful the districts had come together to make one cohesive proposal.

“It will take us some time to look through this,” Huston said. “We still have to do our budget and see what our leftover amount of ARPA funds will be. We get them in May, so after that we will see how much money is going to be left over. You’ve all seen the price increases on everything, it’s ridiculous. Even though we are bidding projects out now there is little to no price guarantee on some of them even a week out. At times we are seeing day-to-day price changes.”

Also making use of ARPA funds, the commission voted to approve a window replacement project for the courthouse.

“What this proposal would do is have engineers come and take a look at all the windows in the courthouse here. They would give us specs on what needs to be replaced and what is secure,” Huston said. “This would be the second time they’ve probably ever been replaced. Most of the windows here are 45 to 50 years old. Most of them don’t open anymore and the wind comes in all the time. One of the windows in our HR office blew open and just fell out, so it’s time we got to thinking about replacing some of them.”

After the meeting, McGee said he wasn’t surprised everyone was trying to make use of the ARPA money.

“It’s no wonder really,” he said. “I know we must be low on their priorities, but what we do is important. If we want to maintain and improve our system then we need to do something now.”