Tuesday was a big day for the cities of Ames and Hardin, as Liberty County Commissioners approved the dedication of $5.5 million in American Recovery Plan funding to alleviate sewer issues plaguing those communities.
The funds will be split between the two cities, with Ames receiving $2 million and Hardin $3.5 million.
“This is just the earmarking of funds by the county,” said Assistant County Attorney Katherine McCarty.
Both cities utilize the City of Liberty’s sewer treatment plant, and due to infrastruc-ture issues, they have been embroiled in litigation with them for several years. Those issues have caused problems with the amount of flow into Liberty’s system and, in the process, Ames and Hardin have racked up quite a bill, reaching over a million dollars for both.
Those infrastructure issues appear to be shared by both communities, as the original line installation was done so by the same company, and all reports indicate the project was subpar.
“Their systems were put in about 20 years ago by the same contractor, and they didn’t do a good job, and it deteriorated in the meantime,” said Matt Gott, attorney for both Ames and Hardin.
Both cities have a deadline of July 1, 2022, to remedy, or be in the process of fixing the situation, or Liberty will shut off their access. The cutoff date has been on the table for five years, which could make this funding a saving grace in those legal matters going forward.
“It’s a problem for Liberty because it affects their permitting with TCEQ, and it’s getting to the point where they are seriously contemplating or threatening to turn off the pump system,” said Gott.
Those overage charges appear to be caused by issues with infrastructure flow, as well as what some attribute to heavy rainfall at times. When each city goes over the designated intake amount the price per gallon increases.
City Manager Tom Warner had no comment on the situation, as it is the subject of a pending legal matter.
County Auditor Dwayne Gott’s office will administer funding laid out as part of interlocal agreements with the county and each city.
Ames’ allocation will be earmarked for smoke testing that will run about $60,000 to identify trouble areas in their lines with the city of Liberty. The remaining funds will make repairs to some of the problem areas.
Gilmore is enthused about the prospect of the county’s assistance and says these funds will only assist efforts already being made to address issues in Ames.
“Since I have been the mayor, we have found multiple issues and have worked to fix them,” said Gilmore.
Hardin has been working on remedying issues within that city for some time now, spending well over $100,000 for testing to identify problems that need repair. They have been able to secure grants to address those issues in recent years.
Now they look to make major strides in the process to improve infrastructure.
“I’m very pleased with what they offered us here because we can do a lot with that toward repairing our system,” said Hardin Mayor Harry Johnson.
They hope to utilize funds to complete some significant improvement projects and potentially build their own sewer plant in the future.
County Judge Jay Knight was very pleased with the court and believes that this project best serves communities in the county.
“Those funds are for purposes just like this where the need of a community necessitates the decision by the court to help as many people as we can. I applaud the court’s decision,” said Knight.