City Manager Steve Williams recently appeared on Panola Pride to discuss new changes happening at City. He stated the City will be installing new water meters some time in the next year. The current meters are read electronically as a water technician drives by in a truck and those readings are then uploaded to City Hall to create the current month’s water bills. When residents receive their water bills, the amount billed is for the previous months’ usage.
With the new meters, antennas will be installed in various locations in the City that will automatically read each resident’s usage on a daily basis. This new system will come with an app for smart phones that will allow residents to see usage on a daily basis. If there is an increase in water usage, the resident can tell immediately if there is a problem, rather than waiting for the bill to arrive the next month. This will cut down on ‘surprises’ that aren’t necessarily noticed by the customer until it’s too late.
This new system will also install a pressure monitoring system in the main water lines which will detect a leak and allow workers to repair the problem more quickly. Another part of the project is manhole rehabilitation. Some of these manholes are 80+ years old and in desperate need of repair. According to Williams, “Our sewer plant takes in about two million gallons per day. When we have a large rain, the intake can jump up to five million per day. Updating the manholes will alleviate much of the run-off that goes into the lines.”
Another area for update is lift station monitoring. These lift stations are manually checked twice a day, seven days a week to make sure sewer is flowing correctly. With installation of a new monitoring system, workers can be promptly alerted to head off major issues. “The savings we’ll realize in these projects will more than cover the cost of the expenses,” states Williams. “This new system should pay for itself over the life of the project.”
Additionally, $4 million will be spent updating the water treatment plant, another $4 million on the wastewater treatment plant and then $2 million on the overhead storage tanks. No work has been done in these areas for over 20 years. The City received $1.6 million in ARPA (American Rescue Plan Act of 2021) funds that will be used on these projects. The remaining costs will be funded with bonds.
Williams explains, “In order to make sure we could continue to cover the cost of operations and debt service, we made the decision to hire a consulting firm to advise us on what we should be charging for water and sewer usage. We have not raised water-sewer rates in 10 years and have been absorbing the increased costs. The average customer’s bill will go up 17% which will amount to about $6-$10 per month. It’s not a huge increase, and no one likes to raise their costs, but sometimes you just have to. These upgrades are important to keep our water and sewer systems running efficiently.” Commercial customers will see the increase on the November bill; residential customers won’t see an increase until the December bill.