Albany's sewer system will need price upgrades - WALB.com, Albany News, Weather, Sports

Albany's sewer system will need price upgrades

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By Karen Cohilas - bio | email

January 6, 2009

ALBANY, GA (WALB) - You probably don't think about it much, but sewage and storm drainage make up a huge part of the city of Albany's infrastructure.

It's a major challenge, and a major expense, to keep it in working order.

Plus, the federal government says the city must separate sewage and storm drain systems to cut down on pollution into the river.

That project will cost $130 million, but city leaders hope to get money from the Obama administration's economic stimulus package to get the job done.

It's one of the top six priorities for the Albany city commission, storm water system renovation and sewer separation, but it's also one of the top expenses.

"The price tag for the entire project is upwards of $130 Million," said Phil Roberson, Albany Public Works Director.

Expensive and required, by the EPA. Unfortunately, no money came along with that mandate, so the city is left to foot the bill.

"Luckily for us, the new President's economic stimulus package is focusing on infrastructure, so we're positioning ourselves to take maximum advantage of any federal dollars that come down."

Already, the city is reaching out for $10 Million in funding to help with the project, in hopes that money will keep them from having to raise taxes.

Much of the system was put in place as early as the 50's and is literally falling apart. "Over a period of time, things age and a lot of the system was built at one time you start to see the aging happening at one time," Sewer Superintendent Ann Zimmer-Shepherd said.

"If you don't take care of your local infrastructure, whether it be underground or above ground infrastructure, you can have serious health ramifications," Roberson said.

Part of the project would be ready to go immediately, other phases would be shovel ready in one to two years. The city may also consider a special sales tax to raise money to improve the sewer system.

City officials hope to be eligible for $10 million in stimulus money to work on the projects.

They're also working on other projects they may submit for stimulus money.

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