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Law tanks water tower
Thursday, 02.27.2014, 04:56pm (GMT-5)
By Kelly Rupp
What seemed to be a perfect team effort between the City of Minco and the Minco Public School District addressing water pressure issues at the new high school as well as the rest of the city has turned out to be a legal impossibility.
The Minco City Council unanimously approved city financial contributions to the construction of a new water tower at its February 3 meeting.. The new water tower project would have replaced the 115-foot-tall tower on Main Street with a 150-foot-tall construction, improving storage capacity from 50,000 to 150,000 gallons. The council’s vote in the February City Council meeting approved the movement of $280,000 from the reserve fund to the general fund to pay for the city’s portion of the cost.
The project replaced an earlier plan to build a standpipe which would have mainly benefitted the school.
“The money we are going to spend is so much more valuable to the city. At this point the city is contributing $280,000 and the school is contributing the rest. The total for the water tower project is between $350,000 and $400,000. The total is around $900,000 for the water tower, pipe and pumps,” Minco Schools Superintendent said after the Council approved the project.
But the plan has run aground after consultation with the school’s bond attorney as well as the Assistant Attorney General and Grady County District Attorney Jason Hicks.
A letter from Larry Lewis, the school’s bond attorney states:
“The school cannot contribute school district bond fund monies to the city for construction of a new water tower that would increase water pressure for city residents, even though a new water tower would also increase pressure for school facilities. School district bond funds, like district General and Building Fund monies, must be spent for school district expenditures rather than projects for individuals or other political subdivisions. Thus, to give the school district bond funds received by the school district as a result of school district voters approving additional taxation on their property to construct school district improvements would be an illegal expenditure.”
The letter was read at a special meeting of the Minco Board of Education Monday, Feb. 24.
School board members spent the remainder of the meeting consulting with engineers for the new high school and Mayor Watson Mitchell for a solution to meet the school’s fire suppression water pressure requirement of maintaining 50 pounds of pressure for 90 minutes.
“I’m so disappointed it hurts,” Sims said.
With plans for the water tower scrapped, the school must now choose between building a fire suppression tank to be used only in the event of a fire or building a standpipe on school property, which would provide increase water pressure at the school as well as to areas to the south and west of the school. The projects would each cost the school over $700,000. School board members were in agreement, though, that the standpipe option was the most prudent plan and was ready to permit. The standpipe also allows ample water pressure for future expansion at the site.
The city’s attorney is researching the possibility of refinancing the city’s water bond and Mayor Mitchell is exploring grants and other funding options to fund construction of the proposed water tower, which all parties agree would be the best option for the school and the community.