Hobson City plans drainage, water system repairs
by Eddie Burkhalter
eburkhalter@annistonstar.com
Jul 22, 2013 | 2279 views |  0 comments | 46 46 recommendations | email to a friend | print
HOBSON CITY – Drainage and water supply problems along Martin Luther King Drive in Hobson City need to be fixed, says Mayor Alberta McCrory, and the Town Council took steps Monday toward doing just that.

The council met Monday with Russ Roberts, project manager for the Birmingham engineering firm, Goodwyn, Mills and Cawood. Roberts discussed details of a project to make repairs to flood-prone areas of town and its aging water system.

The work includes repairs to the town’s drainage ditches along Martin Luther King Drive and replacement of residential water meters, water mains and damaged water lines.

The council voted Monday to submit an application to the U.S. Department of Agriculture for a grant and a loan from the agency to pay for the $3.3 million project.

“We’re ready to seal this deal and move forward,” McCrory said.

Engineering and environmental reports have been completed, Roberts said, and are ready to turn into the USDA with the application.

In the event the application is approved, the USDA has agreed to provide a grant to pay for 75 percent of the project, according to Roberts. A 30-year loan will fund the remaining 25 percent, he said.

The loan would cost the town $3,429 a month and would be paid from the town’s water bill collections, McCrory said.

It can take up to six months for state approval once the USDA receives the application, Roberts said.

“And then we can move forward with design,” Roberts said. “You’re looking at late summer of 2014 to start construction on this project.”

McCrory said the city is currently losing about $30,000 annually due to leakages in the water system and faulty, aging water meters, Roberts said. Hobson City buys the town’s water from Anniston Water.

“I would recommend the town focus on getting to that 25 percent,” Roberts said. The money saved from completing the work can be used to pay off the loan, he said.

In another matter, more than a dozen homeowners attended the meeting hoping to secure money to make repairs to their homes.

Diane Glenn, principal planner for the East Alabama Regional Planning and Development Commission, explained the process of applying for a Community Development Block Grant, which could pay for those repairs.

The town is able to get a maximum of $350,000 through the grant, funded by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. .A grant application was submitted in 2012 but was not approved.

“One of the main areas of scoring is what they call impact,” Glenn said. “They expect to be able to come into the community and see improvements.”

It helps the grant application if homeowners are willing to pay some toward their own home improvements, Glenn said.

If the town council agrees to ask residents to match a portion of any money provided by the grant, the chances of getting the application approved increases, Glenn said.

It would be up to the council to decide how much of a match to require of residents, Glenn said, and if the resident failed to pay their portion, the town would be responsible for the bill.

Last year, the council did not include that requirement, and it hurt the town’s odds, Glen said. Glenn also said in-kind matches in the form of manual work on the part of residents in repairing their homes can also help approval of the application.

Councilwoman Jones said many homes are owned by single parents who cannot afford an extra bill.

After some discussion, the council agreed to match up to one percent, or $3,500 of the overall grant, in the event residents fail to pay their portion of that matching money.

The size and scope of the project also has an impact on whether a grant application is approved, Glenn said. Instead of spreading the money over the entire town, the application stands a better chance of being approved if the money is used in a smaller, specific area of town, Glenn said.

It will be up to the council to select a specific area of town in which residents will be qualified to apply for a portion of the grant, if the town’s overall application is approved. McCrory asked council members to chose an area they deem as one where homes are in most need of repair to help make that decision.

Applications are due Aug. 19.

“We should have an answer for this year probably in October or November,” Glenn said.

If the grant is approved, residents can then apply for their portion of the money, McCrory said.

“We will have a cleanup day in the city,” McCrory said. That community buy-in is also something that can help secure the grant, McCrory explained.

In other business, the council:

- Announced that a citywide church service has been set for Aug. 18 at 4 p.m. at the FEMA building in Hobson City. Pastors from each church in town are expected to participate.

- Announced that Nikki Gaskin has been hired by McCrory as director of the Hobson City Public Library. Gaskin replaces outgoing director, Donna Ross. Ross had been director since August 2011, and left her position July 19. McCrory said Ross chose to resign to focus on her work as president of the Anniston School Board.

Announced that copies of a proposed new nuisance and abatement ordinance will soon be made available at the Town Hall and the public library for residents to read. The ordinance has not been approved by the council, and was tabled Monday to give the council and community an opportunity to read.

Announced that the town’s parks and recreation department is in need of volunteers.

Agreed to spend up to $2,000 to buy a lawnmower for the town, with one no vote form Councilman O’Mildred Ball.

Staff writer Eddie Burkhalter: 256-235-3563. On Twitter @Burkhalter_Star.

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