By Matt Clevenger
For Miami Valley Today
LAURA — Members of the Laura village council held a special meeting Monday seeking residents’ input on a proposed plan to replace the village’s aging water tower.
“We’re at the point where we’re going to have to do something,” water board member Jonathan Thompson told council during the special meeting. “We’re going to be forced to fix it by the EPA; they’re going to make us do it at some point.”
Originally built in the 1950s, the village’s old water tower currently needs exterior paint, as well as cleaning and additional maintenance inside the tower. Instead, the water board has proposed a plan to build a new water tower, funded by a $10 per-month increase in residents’ water bills.
“The total to keep the tower, which is in good shape, would be $620,000 to paint the exterior and get the interior back up to code,” Thompson said.
The high cost is due to lead-based paint that would have to be removed from the exterior, as well as new EPA rules regarding wax used to prevent rust on the inside of the tower. “The EPA won’t let us wax the inside of the tower anymore,” Thompson said. “We have to scrape that stuff out and clean it to the bare metal.”
“We can’t get a grant for $620,000 to paint the tower, because all of the grant people think that’s maintenance,” he said. “But we can get a grant for a new tower.”
The new water tower would cost approximately $865,000 and would be built right next to the old one, which would be left standing for one year as an emergency back-up. The grant process itself can take up to three years, and the tower would take an additional six to eight months to build once all the financing has been arranged.
“We started the process in May,” Thompson said. “It will be located pretty much right next to the existing tower; we will not be cutting into the size of the park.”
Grants would cover approximately $500,000 of the new tower’s cost, and the village would have to come up with additional funding to match it. “We have to provide 11 percent of matching funds towards buying the new tower, which came up in the ballpark of $95,200,” Thompson said. “We have to come up with that money before we can get the grant.”
Council members are considering at least two different plans to raise the village’s share of the project, which will be discussed during the next several meetings. One plan calls for a $10 increase to residents’ monthly water bills, which are currently set at a $60 flat rate that includes both water supply and wastewater treatment. The other plan would raise rates by $5 the first year, moving up to a $10 increase the next year.
“We could make it if we did a $5 rate increase in year one, and then in year two raise it another $5, which would make the $10,” council member Chris Foster said. “Then that would carry forward; we would go $65 per month the first year, and then go to the $70 per month thereafter.”
“Raising the capital funds up front will give us a little bit of a cushion if something does come up,” Thompson said. “If they start building the tower, and they find something going on over there.”
Council will hold a total of three readings before deciding on the proposed $10 rate increase. Water board meetings are held at 7 p.m. on the first Tuesday of each month at the village municipal building; village council meetings are held at 7 p.m. on the second Monday of each month.
“The board is not opposed to any ideas,” Thompson said. “We’re trying to spend our money as wisely as we can. We have to do something; they’re going to force us to do something.”