Jennifer Payne-Simpkins

Jennifer Payne-Simpkins

The city of Fort Oglethorpe has been awarded a $3 million loan through the Georgia Environmental Finance Authority (GEFA) to help with its planned sewer infrastructure upgrades.

During the Jan. 22 City Council meeting, City Manager Jennifer Payne-Simpkins explained that the city's sewer system will need upgrades in the near future, and that she and city staff have secured a way to help alleviate some of the financial stress surrounding those projects.

"The city is going to incur some expenses due to our Chattanooga, Tenn., intergovernmental agreement on our sewer system," Payne-Simpkins said. "We applied for a $3 million low-interest loan through GEFA a couple of months ago, and I'm happy to report that the city of Fort Oglethorpe is receiving up to $3 million worth of low-interest loans."

In 2017, the city struck a new agreement with the city of Chattanooga regarding treatment of its waste water. The agreement includes more expensive penalties for flow rate overages. Fort Oglethorpe's transmission system, wastewater collection, and flow rate monitoring were also evaluated resulting in the payment of over $330,000 in recalculated waste water overages for 2015-2016.

The infrastructure upgrades are a way of making the city's sewer system more efficient, and doing so through a GEFA loan will offer the city financial flexibility due to the low-interest nature of the loan.

"We only get the loan if we expend the money, so if we don't need it, we don't have to get it," Payne-Simpkins said. "It's an 0.89-percent interest rate, which is unbelievable for a 20-year term. We're very excited about having these resources to help us offset the expense of doing our inflow and infiltration projects."

Payne-Simpkins said two pump stations will also be replaced as part of the system overhaul.

"We are planning to replace two pump stations with these funds; the Fever Road pump station, which is 25 years old, and the Westside #2 pump station is over 30 years old," she explained. "Both are in need of replacement, and this loan will allow us to do that affordably."

Adam Cook is a general assignment reporter and covers the Walker-Catoosa County area. He has been a reporter since 2009. He can be reached at The Catoosa County News office at 706-935-2621 and by email at acook@npco.com.