The city currently has eight major projects in the works, totaling nearly $22 million. That’s nearly the equivalent of the entire annual budget for the City of El Campo. As citizens, you have a right to know where your funds go. Below is a list of these projects, including the source of funds for each and the purpose of each project.
Hwy. 71 North Water Line
This project is funded with American Rescue Plan funds. These funds, $2,859,202, were issued to the city as part of the American Rescue Plan Act signed March 2021.
These funds can only be used for certain purposes, such as investing in water, sewer and broadband infrastructure. The city has elected to utilize these funds for numerous projects, which would have been funded through debt issuances.
This project involves replacing the water line underneath northbound Hwy. 71, from Franke Street to Fifth Street. This line is nearing 90 years old and constantly needs attention. The city plans to upsize the line and place it in the right-of-way (out of the traffic); the existing line will be abandoned.
Wastewater Treatment Plant Improvements: $1,329,000
This project is funded through the 2021 Certificates of Obligation, or debt that was issued earlier this year. The debt will be repaid through utility fees for water and sewer services. The total issuance of debt was $3,420,510 and is being used for this project and the Avenue F well replacement.
The treatment plant has only had energy improvements made to it since 2000. The plant is in dire need of repairs and replacement equipment/parts.
Among the improvements to the plant are replacement of approximately 400 linear feet of existing underground air piping with ductile iron pipe, the raising of the existing oxidation ditch walls, as well as the addition of a second belt filter press. A lot of details for a project that will keep your treatment plant operational.
Avenue F Well/Storage
This project is also funded through the 2021 Certificates of Obligation ($2,091,510), and through American Rescue Plan funds ($1,329,000).
The project involves replacing the second oldest well in service, which was designed and built in 1951. The ground storage tank, also original to the 1951 construction, is slated to be replaced as well. During periods of high demand, currently, there are issues with lack of available water for system supply.
Tres Palacios Drainage
Improvements Phase II:
This project is funded through the General Land Office Community Development Block Grant Mitigation funds ($14,652,000) and the city’s portion of 1 percent ($148,000). The city was awarded this grant in the spring of 2021.
The project is Phase II of the Tres Palacios improvements, mitigating drainage along the creek from U.S. 59 to Business 59. The project will feature replacing the Pinchot Street Bridge, concrete channelizing part of the creek and widening other areas to reduce the floodplain footprint in El Campo.
Street Maintenance: $400,000
Utility Maintenance: $400,000
Both projects are funded annually through either user fees (transportation user fees, water and sewer fees) and tax dollars.
On an annual basis, the city dedicates these funds for the ongoing maintenance of the city’s water and sewer lines, and streets.
The city evaluates the streets utilizing a tool called pavement condition index, which grades the street based on the types and severity of distresses observed on the surface. The city’s goal is to improve failing roads and to prevent roads from failing.
The city’s utility lines are also replaced and improved based on need, rather than age. The city has dedicated these funds annually for nearly a decade.
Generator for Lift Stations: $154,000
Funds for this project will be sourced from the American Rescue Plans. This project involves purchasing a generator, a switch and electrical work at the lift stations to make them generator ready.
The city learned the importance of this through Winter Storm Uri in February. This generator will be portable and transported where needed, when needed. The city is evaluating all facilities for backup power, as well as considering funding options.
Address Infiltration and Inflow in Sanitary Sewer Lines to Mitigate Adverse Drainage: $300,000
Finally, the city is addressing inflow and infiltration utilizing American Rescue Plan funds. Inflow and Infiltration is excess water that flows into sewer lines from either/both stormwater and groundwater.
The most typical cause for these issues is aging infrastructure. To combat this, the city utilizes smoke tests to determine where cracks and breaks lie. This provides clear guidance on where to make repairs and/or replacements to protect the integrity of our lines.
If you’ve had your calculator out and been totaling these, feel free to check my math. The total for all these projects is just over $21.79 million.
Most of these projects are funded through grants or federal funds, a few are supported through utility backed debt and the rest utilize your tax dollars.
The city is very mindful of where our dollars come from and how to spend them efficiently. Quality of life through infrastructure projects proves that your city is working hard to not only plan but maintain our existing needs.
– Courtney Sladek is the El Campo city manager.