A grant awarded to Hobson City will let the town hold inspections for its long-leaking water system, according to the mayor.
Mayor Alberta McCrory said Monday that the town received a $30,000 grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture which it applied for late last year. That money will go to the survey of the city’s water infrastructure, which has long drained city finances and raised residential water costs.
“The city has been experiencing a huge water loss each year since before I’ve been there,” said McCrory, who was elected in 2008. “Part of the problem is aged water lines and not being funded to the extent we could resolve most of those problems at one time.”
The town has been hampered by its water system for years, averaging a loss of about 2.5 million gallons of water per month in 2015. Money goes into repairing and replacing leaking pipes and burst water mains every year, but curbing the water loss has been long out of reach. Once the survey is done, the city should have an idea what it will cost to finally plug the leaks.
“We already know that we may have to go after some other sources” of funding, McCrory said.
She wasn’t sure Monday if the city would open a bidding process for the engineering work, or when the work might start.
The survey money is from the organization’s Special Evaluation Assistance for Rural Communities and Households program, which pays for feasibility studies, engineering, design and help with filing more applications for grants. SEARCH grants require the applying entity to have fewer than 2,500 residents and a median household income below the poverty line. The 120-year-old Hobson City has only about 760 residents.
The Alabama Department of Economic and Community Affairs had awarded Hobson City a $300,000 grant, part of which had been used to repair around 30 leaks in the water system from 2010 to 2011. After those leaks had been repaired, water loss was down from 57 percent to about 46 percent per month. Those losses leapt back up to more than 60 percent per month in 2015.
“We’re continuing to lose a lot of water,” McCrory said.
Hobson City buys its water from Anniston’s Water Works and Sewer Board. It paid down a debt of more than $110,000 to the water board in 2010, the accumulation of five years’ water loss.
Ed Turner, general manager of Anniston Water Works, said that most any city will have problems with pipes.
“Every utility in the country has infrastructure issues,” Turner said by phone Monday. “That’s just the nature of the beast.”
McCrory said that she and other residents of the city are hopeful for the future, not only for the work that will be done to repair the water system, but for the outside help that’s going to make it possible.
“We have a huge problem in Hobson City, but more than ever, we have people listening to us and people are trying to help us make sure we get this problem resolved,” McCrory said, “and we’re excited about that.”