08-08 water main-01

Crews work to repair a broken water main on US 79.

Palestine will repair and replace miles of aging water lines under a multi-million-dollar plan released Tuesday by City Manager Leslie Cloer.

Cloer said she wants to assure skeptical residents the city will spend money designated for water projects properly.

The plan includes the city's top 10 water-distribution projects , which the city plans to complete over the next several years. Water-rate increases of 56 percent or more, effective Oct. 1, will pay for the projects.

Water-rate-increases, approved by city council members last month, will generate an estimated $2 million a year in added revenue for the city's troubled water system, which is more than a century old.

Bursting pipes, failing water pressure, and foul-tasting water have been persistent problems over the last decade.

In an interview with the Herald-Press Wednesday, Cloer said the plan should reassure residents worried about whether the city is spending the additional money where it should.

At a public hearing last month, residents opposing water-rate increases argued they couldn't trust the city to spend the money properly. One resident even called city budgeting practices a “Ponzi scheme.”

“I believe in – and we are working towards – complete transparency,” Cloer said.

Starting Oct. 1, she said, monthly reports will include summaries of revenue generated by rate increases from residential and commercial water customers. Reports also will outline city spending.

The city manager's monthly report is available on the city's website: cityofpalestinetx.com

City Finance Director Jim Mahoney said he and Cloer have created a line-item on the city's budget specifically for improvements made through the water-rate increase.

The budget will be used strictly for water distruction projects – not salaries, vehicle purchases, or other unrelated expenses.

“Construction and projects only,” Mahoney told the Herald-Press. “Nothing else.”

Here are the projects, listed by priority, and estimated costs:

Water lines on North Jackson, from Maffitt to Coronaca – $182,000.

Back up emergency power for water plant and towers – engineering study needed.

West Point Tap Road, from West Oak to Bassett – $130,000.

Downtown: Two blocks per year – $130,000.

Saltworks from Bassett to Thomas – $140,000.

Sycamore from Spring to Huffsmith – $312,000.

Park St. from Crockett to Loop 256 – $204,600.

Mallard from Palestine to Spring – $158,400.

Magnolia from Spring to Cook – $215,600.

Loop all dead-end water lines to comply with state regulations – $20,000.

The total cost of the projects, minus the back up emergency power for the water treatment plant, is nearly $1.5 million.

No engineering plan on repairs to the water treatment facility have been filed. Early estimates, however, from cities that have recently undergone similar projects, show the cost could exceed $3 million.

Cloer encouraged residents to attend council and town hall meetings to learn how the city operates, and to participate in discussing the city's future.

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