City 10/13/21

Bruce Boettcher (left) of BG Consultants addresses the Emporia City Commission in regard to taking out loans for city water improvement projects Wednesday morning.

The Emporia City Commission discussed loans for current and upcoming waterline replacement projects during its Wednesday morning study session.

Bruce Boettcher of BG Consultants explained that the city had already received some loan dollars for water infrastructure projects from the State Revolving Fund and suggested that the current project fund be closed out at $5 million and a new loan be taken out for about $14.5 million for a series of upcoming similar projects.

Mayor Rob Gilligan explained that the State Revolving Fund allowed the city to take out loans that were not particularly burdensome.

“The reason we use the State Revolving Fund is we can borrow at a very low interest rate — 1.3% is what they’re saying the current rate is — and spread that cost out over 20 years so we can try and maintain a good balance in our water fund and the cost to consumers, but make those improvement investments that improve the quality and access to water,” he said.

He added that city staff will compare upcoming water and street projects so that the projects are scheduled in a manner that makes the most sense logistically and financially.

“(We’re) trying to look at the broader vision for the next five years as we do these projects and make sure that we strategically plan things together,” he said.

Gilligan added that it was important to note that the city had 16 water projects totalling around $21 million planned between 2020-2025.

“They’re pretty significant investments,” he said.

Some of the projects the two loans will pay for have been completed and others are somewhere in the process. Additional projects will continue to be worked on throughout the coming years.

In other business, the commission heard Public Works Director Dean Grant’s request to apply for a Kansas Department of Transportation grant to assist with the cost of extending the airport runway 51 feet.

Grant said the cost of the project is $600,000, which is up from the original estimate of $525,000 due to an increase in material costs. The grant would cover 90% of the total cost, leaving the city responsible for $60,000.

The commission will vote on whether to approve the application during next week’s action session.

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