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By Carmen Ensinger
With the city of Winchester receiving $331,000 from the USDA at the last minute in the form of a Community Grant to go towards the library expansion, the city decided there just might be some more money out there to be obtained.
Greg Hillis, with Benton and Associates, was present at the Winchester City Council meeting Wednesday night, Nov. 3 and informed the council that the library project would be starting soon.
“The paperwork is back on all of the contracts except on the insurance,” he said. “When we get that, they will be ready to go.”
Hillis said Dwight Reynolds, with the USDA, was the one responsible for securing the $331,000 that was able to make the library extension possible at, literally, the 13th hour.
“After he (Reynolds) was able to secure this loan for you, the Mayor (Rex McIntire) asked if there was any money out there for anything else,” Hillis said. “The good news is, there is some USDA grants/loan money out there right now.”
One thing the city could possibly use some grant/loan money for is to improve the city’s aged water mains.
“I talked to John (Simmons) and you have a lot of undersized water mains and some that are breaking a lot,” Hillis said. “That poses a health issue and the USDA is all about health issues. We are going to look at the water system here and see what is a potential fix throughout the system and come up with some cost estimates and then have a committee meeting and see what we can do and look at what kind of grant dollars are out there.”
Hillis said with the USDA, there is the need for a preliminary engineering report which they would perform, for a fee of course, but it would give a scorecard of what the city’s water system needs are five years out.
Water Committee member Lawrence Coultas said he had occasion to talk with Hillis personally and get more information on the subject.
“These grants could go up to 75 percent of the project,” Coultas said. “Or, if we got 50 percent, we could get a 50 percent loan for out matching half at one and a quarter percent interest for 40 years, which we could pay off early if we wanted to. But it would be locked in at that rate for 40 years.”
Hillis said either way, it was a good deal.
“Even if you only received a grant for 50 percent of the project, it may benefit you,” he said. “Because the mains are going to last more than 40 years, which is the life of the loan. They are going to last more than 50 years at the very least.”
Mayor McIntire said the city needs to look beyond just the water system.
“We need to look beyond just the water and sewer,” he said. “We also need to look at our vehicles. I know John (Simmons) has some trucks that are getting old and we need to trade in our backhoe while it still has some residual value in it.”
Coultas asked the council if this was something they would like Hillis to pursue further.
“The only problem I see right now is that these mains are PVC pipe and the cost of this type of pipe is escalated right now,” McIntire said.
Alderman Ron Bell, however, pointed out that it could take a year or more before anything gets finalized and the project, if approved, actually gets started.
“By the time we get through this whole process, it could be a year before you start seeing any ground breaking,” he said. “With the USDA there is a lot of paperwork and a lot of hoops you have to jump through.”
Another thing Hillis pointed out is that there are rumblings of even more money coming down the pipeline.
“If that would happen, you would be ready and you would be the first one in line to get that additional money,” he said. “I think this is something we need to get started on because this money could be out there. Just like the library. It was a case of perfect timing and you see what they got. Same way with the pool. Both of those projects were already ready to go when the money became available.”