HEFLIN — U.S. Rep. Mike Rogers, R-Saks, visited Heflin on Wednesday to tour the city’s aging water treatment plant with city officials and other stakeholders. The plant needs upgrades to handle an increased volume expected from new businesses at the city’s industrial park, and officials solicited Rogers’ support for anything he could do to achieve those upgrades.
Rogers complimented Heflin Mayor Robby Brown for kickstarting development in the industrial park, which has sat dormant since its inception in 2005.
“He’s doing some cool stuff, good local leadership,” Rogers said about Brown and other city officials' efforts.
“I’m proud for them, they’ve been working and toiling for a long time to get ready to get something like this. I’m proud, it’s starting to pay off for them,” the congressman said.
Rogers said he was in town because of his district work period which allows him to visit counties in his district.
“Monday I was in Tallapoosa County all day, yesterday I was in St. Clair County all day, today is my Cleburne County day, I leave for Eastern Europe tomorrow,” Rogers said.
Rogers said he will visit Romania, Poland and the Ukraine as part of an armed services delegation trip.
Rogers said he would be back in Washington to vote on the infrastructure bill on Aug. 23. Rogers said he is uncertain as to whether he will vote on the bill.
“I got to see it and make sure I know what’s in it. If it’s all infrastructure I’ll consider it, but I’ve heard that it’s not which is why 31 Republicans wouldn’t vote for it,” said Rogers. “If they came with a straight infrastructure bill which is really roads, bridges, water, sewer and broadband and stuff like that, absolutely I’d vote for it, but if it’s got a bunch of climate change stuff in there and stuff, I’m not going to do that.”
Rogers met with Brown and Glen Hyatt, operations manager with the Heflin Water Works and Sewer Board, about the water treatment plant located at the Cahulga Creek watershed. The mayor told Rogers that the water treatment plant is probably one of the oldest in the state.
“We need something new ... we’ve got some concerns because we’re growing at our industrial park right now,” Brown said.
Hyatt said the water treatment plant was put online in 1977 and it works fine dispensing “good clean water.”
Hyatt said a major weakness of the plant is that it only has one filter. During a recent Alabama Department of Environmental Management, he said, the inspector observed it’s the only plant in the state with just one filter.
“Here’s the problem: If this filter fails tonight we’re going to have part of our community out of water — and it’s hard to sell and attract new jobs with a water system that is uncertain,” Hyatt said.
Hyatt led a tour of the water treatment plant and told the group that there are two options for the water plant to increase capacity.
Hyatt said the cost for a new water treatment plant would be between $32 million and $36 million but to refurbish the existing plant and doubling capacity the cost would be significantly less.
According to Hyatt, the water plant is operating just about at capacity, taking into account the new or planned businesses at the industrial park. The goal, according to Hyatt, is to double the capacity of the water plant.
Rogers said he would help as much as he can with the water treatment plant.
“What I need is just for you to let me know what you need with specificity, once you decide, if replacing is realistic with some grant program, fine,” said Rogers. “If they pass this infrastructure bill obviously I’m going to be reaching for it, but what I think you’ve got to decide is come up with a plan for what you need if the infrastructure bill becomes reality.”
Rogers said the city needs a comprehensive plan for both options for the water treatment plant.
“If the bill does not pass you can forget the $32 million option,” said Rogers.