Murfreesboro makes plans to spend ARP funds

Published 5:51 pm Tuesday, October 18, 2022

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MURFREESBORO – Most of Murfreesboro’s funds from the American Rescue Plan (ARP) Act will go towards the town’s infrastructure needs.

That decision was made by the Murfreesboro Town Council during their regular meeting on Wednesday, Oct. 12, though the topic has been discussed at previous meetings as well.

The first order of business was to determine what to do with Murfreesboro’s well #1 (out of four total in town). That well is currently not in operation. During a previous council discussion, they all agreed that it would be a safety issue if the well was not dealt with. Town officials would have to choose between “abandoning” the well or rehabilitating it. Council member Jay Revelle researched the costs of both options and presented the information to the rest of the council at the Oct. 12 meeting.

The quote estimate Revelle shared for abandoning the well totaled $42,104. That work would entail removing the pump, chlorinating water, and backfilling the well.

For fixing the well, the quote estimate was $175,469 with an additional approximate cost of $26,200 to do electrical work to add a soft start to bring water pressure up slowly when necessary.

“I really believe we can get that cheaper,” Revelle said of the $26,200 estimate for the electrical work.

Revelle laid out his case to the rest of the council in favor of rehabilitating well #1.

“It provides the only thing that the town sells, and that is water,” he began. “It prepares the town for [future] growth, both residential and industrial.”

He also pointed out that, in the last year, the town has been down to only one functioning well a few times, and that two different engineers have recommended that the town should utilize every source of water possible. He noted that the town’s fire chief was also in favor of fixing the well.

Murfreesboro Public Works Director James Brown stated at a meeting in September that he agreed with the idea of fixing the well.

“We’ve got money to fix it now,” Revelle continued, referencing the ARP funds. “It’s a liability to the town, and it can give us problems with water purity down the road [if no action is taken]. If we spend $200,000 now to upgrade an existing liability into a $900,000 asset, in my mind, that makes sense.”

Revelle did mention, however, that if the well is too deteriorated to be fixed once the work begins, then they would have to abandon it after all. But the town would only be billed for work up until that point, and not the full amount for rehabilitation.

Council member David Brown was unable to attend the Oct. 12 meeting, but he had previously spoke in favor of abandoning the well at a meeting in September.

“I think three wells for a town no bigger than the size of Murfreesboro is a substantial amount of water,” Brown said at that meeting, adding that they would be able to get water from the county if they had to in an emergency.

He also noted that the ARP funds are “one-time only” funds and wouldn’t be available to cover the costs of maintenance in the future.

None of the other council members spoke up in favor or against the suggestions for well #1 at either meeting.

Following his presentation, Revelle motioned to use ARP funds to fix well #1, and council member Craig Dennis provided the second. The vote was unanimously in favor among those in attendance at the Oct. 12 meeting.

Later in the meeting, the council also discussed a sewer rehabilitation project that was first approved back in 2019 following the results of a wastewater asset and inventory assessment. Revelle again presented information he had been given about cost overruns and options that the engineer had suggested about moving forward.

Revelle explained that the town was originally allotted $1.8 million from the state in 2019 for the project which would make repairs and improvements to approximately 20 percent of the town’s sewer system. Those funds were a grant/loan where the town would be forgiven $500,000 but would have to pay back the rest at two percent interest.

The cost overruns now, however, total approximately $428,000, bringing the total up over $2.2 million.

Revelle said the engineer for the project suggested three options: borrow the extra money from the state, scale back the scope of the project, or use ARP funds to cover the overrun amount.

For option one, Revelle noted that the town would have to pay back the borrowed money later, and it would also have to be approved by the state’s Local Government Commission. For option two, he explained that anything the town wasn’t able to fix now would have to still be fixed later. And for option three, Revelle noted that the town would be able to complete the entire project, but they would not have those ARP funds available for other projects.

Revelle said the town had a total of $652,966 available in ARP funds, but when you subtract out the cost for well #1 and the cost to complete the sewer project, the town would have a balance of $21,000 leftover.

He concluded his presentation by noting that they could make a decision at the next meeting if the council wanted more time to think over the options.

Mayor Hal Thomas said he thought the town should follow the advice of the engineer and use the ARP funds. He added that they shouldn’t keep putting off the sewer rehabilitation project.

“We keep kicking the can down the road and the price keeps going up and up,” added council member Berna Stephens.

Thomas asked Revelle if he was going to make a motion for the sewer project.

At first Revelle hesitated, but then pointed out that the council had already talked about making sure the ARP funds were used to address infrastructure issues in town. He then motioned to use the ARP funds to cover the cost overrun.

Stephens seconded, and, like the previous vote, it was unanimously approved by those in attendance.