There were new faces on the Liberty Town Council, but it did not take them long to become acclimated to the proposed water project the town is planning.

Dereck Tipton and Derrek Jenkins took their places at the council table Monday night, Jan. 6. They replace Roger Bowling and Rachel Marcum due to the November 2019 election. There are now five Republicans at the table in the council seats as well as Republican clerk/treasurer Melissa Shepler.
Bowling and Marcum were Democrats.

About halfway through Monday night's meeting, Mike Kleinpeter, owner of Kleinpeter Consulting Group LLC, talked about his part in the proposed water project as well as a broad overview of the project.

Town council members on the former board were unanimous in wanting to repair water mains in or near Eaton Street. Those mains have been repaired several times, and it is the main that feeds the schools based in Liberty.

However, council has been warned after a water project has been approved with an OCRA grant, the municipality will have a five-year waiting period before they can apply for another OCRA grant to do a water project. Because of that reason, the town needs to carefully study the town's water system to see if anything else needs to be repaired or replaced at this time.

Kleinpeter has been hired to do an income survey, which is a necessary step when a municipality applies for an Office of Community and Rural Affairs (OCRA) grant. An OCRA grant will come with an in-kind payment from the municipality.

According to Kleinpeter, water/sewer grants up to $700,000 require at least a 20 percent match.

Kleinpeter, who once worked at OCRA, said five items are needed by a municipality when applying for an OCRA grant. They are:
*Qualify via census or income survey as low to moderate income.

*Local match commitment. With this, if the town does not have the money on hand, then the town can borrow money or float a bond.

*Site Control, meaning own the property where the work is going to be and if not own, then the municipality must have right of way or easement agreements.

*Environmental review

*Preliminary engineering report

The latter is where the money is. According to Kleinpeter, the price is contingent upon the financing the municipality is using for the matching money. If the town has the money already, then the preliminary engineering report does not have to be as in depth. However, if the money is from the state's revolving loan fund or something of that nature, then the preliminary engineering report has to be more in depth.

Utilities supervisor Matt Reuss reported to council he and Shepler met with a representative from Baker Tilly. It is a consulting firm for accounting and financing purposes. They talked about how large of a project the town can safely do with its financial situation. The representative will present a plan to council at a later time.

They also talked about rates.

Water rates have not increased since 2009, according to Reuss.

“That's a long time,” Reuss said. “If you're running a business or an operation, there's a lot of things that has changed, a lot of stuff has gone up in that many years.”

Shepler said sewer rates have increased more recently. It was a phased increase with the last phase happening right after she took office four years ago.

Kleinpeter said the next grant application round is in May. He is not looking at that. Instead, he wants the town to focus on the October deadline, Oct. 16, for the next round of grants.

A governmental entity has to score a 450 to be eligible for a grant. OCRA will have $5 to $6 million to give out in grants and will give the money to the projects, which score the highest, going down the list until the money runs out, Kleinpeter said.

Kleinpeter said he will send out an announcement with the town's utility bills, which will be mailed in late Jan. He will then send out a letter explaining the survey and with the survey on the town's letterhead. If people do not respond to the mailed survey, then people will go door to door getting the needed information.

Liberty Town Council’s next meeting is scheduled for 6 p.m., Monday, Jan. 20.