By Greg Gullberg
April 01, 2013
Valdosta, Ga - Valdosta City Leaders are asking for tens of millions of dollars in loans to help fix sewage problems.
Raw sewage has been spewing from sewer mains after heavy rainfall in low lying areas and overflowing from the Waste Water Treatment Plant into local rivers. It became an issue in late February when torrents of flood water rushed down the Withlacoochee River.
Now Valdosta City Leaders have two plans to fix it, but they don't have the money.
"We've not been in the situation where we've had this large amount of debt," said Deputy City Manager Mark Barber.
City leaders want to take on the "Force Main Project" first. The project would change the sewer system from one that works on gravity to a pressure system. They also want to relocate the Waste Water Treatment Plant to higher ground.
The two projects combined would cost more than $50 million.
That would more than double the city's current debt of more than $45 million in debt from other projects.
"Currently all the debt that water/sewer has is being paid through current revenue or user fees you pay every month," said Barber.
They're closing the loan deal now for the $32 million "Force Main Project", they're confident it will be approved in the next few weeks.
But they're waiting on the $20 million Plant Relocation plan to see if they'll have any help from tax payers through a local option sales tax called "SPLOST".
SPLOST failed last time it came up to vote for the first time in 20 years. If residents vote SPLOST down this time, the City would have to take out another loan, and entertain other options, which could mean taxes going up.
"That's out there on the table because if "SPLOST Seven" doesn't pass, we've got to look at all of our options at that point in time," Barber said.
To help with current debt, Valdosta City Leaders have already raised water and sewer rates for high usage customers by 5% per year.