City infrastructure work progresses
By Michael Butler
Much work has been done on the city of Tallassee's infrastructure plans for improved water, gas and sewage, but the project is still ongoing.
"It was about five years ago that we determined what was necessary to overhaul," councilman and finance committee chariman Bill Godwin stated. "The infrastructure in Tallassee is 80-years-old. Of course, anything that old, you're going to have some challenges and we have. City employees were constantly being called out. It was a tremendous cost to the city."
Among the problems was backup of raw sewage into a residence in Emfinger Subdivision.
"The occupants had to be relocated for about three months," said Godwin. "It cost the city about $163,000."
Godwin called Tallassee's situation prior to upgrades a "patch and pray" mentality. In essence, Tallassee passed a one-cent sales tax to undertake the $7.5 million infrastructure project.
Russ Robinson of Alabama Municipal Environmental Engineers (AME) broke down what the city has done and what is still to come.
"We had a $500,000 Community Development Block Grant for the (sewer) project that is complete on the west side. We've seen a marked improvement in the treatment at the lagoons," said Robinson. "We have a project on the east side planned."
In East Tallassee water improvements have been put into place. "We added some additional water lines and a booster station," added Robinson. "The booster station keeps the Carrville tank virtually full most of the time. That's increased the fire flows which helped the fire department get their recent ISO rating. An alternative water supply has been developed for the hospital.
"We've made some improvements at the water filter plant which is the third oldest in the state of Alabama. We installed an emergency generator, so if power goes out it will go for 48 hours without refueling. That was a $163,000 project. We received a grant that reimbursed the city."
Tallassee natural gas system is primarily cast iron. "The Public Service Commission is strongly suggesting cities to get away from that," Robinson noted. "You have a monitor for unaccounted for gas. Their threshold for action is 4 percent. Prior to the project on Lower River Road which serves the entire east side of town, the unaccounted for was 14.9 percent. It has now dropped to 1.9."
GKN Aerospace has switched from propane gas to natural gas provided by the city. "They save and the city gets a large source of revenue. They paid for half of that project and the city paid for half."
Other gas line projects include a $93,000 project along Highway 14. Additional work will be done in downtown Tallassee near the former Hotel Talisi.
"At the hotel area we're planning on replacing water, sewer, gas, drainage and redoing the streets on James Street and Sistrunk Street," Robinson said. The cost of the project is $850,000. During the Hotel Talisi fire in 2009, the city had water pressure issues. Pump trucks were used to to fight the fire due to inconsistent water flow.
Another $850,000 will be used to complete the sewer project on the east side.
There are three series of bonds currently in effect for Tallassee; 2008, 2011 and 2014. Restructuring of some of the bonds has saved the city about $1.2 million according to Godwin.
"Some of the bonds were already on the books," he said. "This one-cent that we approved for this is dedicated for this project and paying it very comfortably."