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Cave Spring to seek USDA funds for sewer fix

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Council members will meet at 6 p.m. in City Hall, 10 Georgia Ave., to discuss the project and their intention to seek a loan or grant through the U.S. Department of Agriculture Rural Utilities Service Program. The water and environmental infrastructure awards are available to cities with 10,000 or fewer residents.

The 2017 special purpose, local option sales tax package includes an earmark of $1,281,000 for the project, but collections won't start until April 1, 2019.

"It’s not a problem of water leaking out, but water leaking in," said Mike Ragland, who was a councilmember when the SPLOST project was first proposed in early 2017.

Heavy rain infiltrates the aging sewer lines, sending too much liquid to the treatment plant and causing back-ups in manholes and sometimes homes.

About 20 residents came to Rome to make their case to the SPLOST Citizens Advisory Committee that set the package last year. David Bailey said his yard "becomes an open sewer until you have a long dry spell."

Since voters approved the SPLOST in November, the council has been using the future allocation to leverage immediate funds.

The board has applied for a $750,000 Community Development Block Grant and a $100,000 emergency low-interest loan through the Georgia Environmental Finance Authority.

CDBG funds are awarded through the Georgia Department of Community Affairs for improvements in low- to moderate-income areas. While some of the sewer lines are in a flood plain on Fannin Street, DCA has determined there would be no unavoidable environmental impact.

"The proposed improvements will minimize harm to the 100-year flood plain by stopping exfiltration and sanitary sewer overflows due to failing manholes and cracked and offset pipes," the notice reads.

Other areas covered by the project include Stewart Circle, Fincher Street, Floyd Street, School Lane, Mill Street, Love Street and a portion of Alabama Street.

Work is already underway on manhole rehabilitation and a video inspection of the system.

The Georgia Environmental Protection Division fined the city more than $6,000 for major spills between 2013 and 2015. Then a spate of overflows in 2016 led to more severe penalties totaling nearly $33,000.

The EPD had been threatening to take over the system when the SPLOST passed. Mayor Dennis Shoaf said penalties are on hold now, with the condition that the city make continuing progress on the fix.