The Hays County Commissioners Court set aside $60,000 from the county's Infrastructure fund at its meeting Oct. 23 to finance the design and engineering of a project that will get the neighborhood of Hillside Terrace onto the City of Buda's sewer system.
The engineering and design phase of the project is expected to cost $400,000, but because of a grant from the Clean Water State Revolving Fund which the City of Buda is in the process of applying for, the project would receive 70 percent loan forgiveness, leaving the city and county to shoulder $60,000 each.
"We're looking at getting a $400,000 project done for $120,000," Precinct 2 Commissioner Mark Jones said. "It's going to be a big health and safety improvement. I think that'll help this area quite a bit."
Jones said the two parties were ready to begin work on the project last year, but the loan forgiveness grant failed to come through.
The original plan for the project called for the county to fund its share of the expense by paying back a loan over the course of 10 years. The money would have been taken from the Lower Colorado River Authority Fund, a monetary source which County Judge Bert Cobb called "shaky." Precinct 3 Commissioner Will Conley pointed out that there is no guarantee the LCRA Fund will still be around in 10 years and recommended the court seek out a more secure option.
Precinct 1 Commissioner Debbie Gonzales-Ingalsbe recommended the county pull the money from the county's Infrastructure fund.
"If we have the funds available, why wouldn't we just go ahead and pay the $60,000?" Gonzales-Ingalsbe said.
The commissioners ultimately decided to take the money from the $224,000 in the county's infrastructure fund. Jones said this will save the county interest payments that would have totaled $600–$900.
Plum Creek Watershed Coordinator Nick Dornak said the move represents a major step forward in protecting the watershed. Dornak said most of the development's 265 septic systems are failing at various times.
"Anytime, you can pretty much go out there and there will be sitting water from the septic waste just sitting in ditches, and that is just readily washed into a creek because they're right on a tributary to Plum Creek right there," Dornak said. "If we were able to decommission all those septic systems and get them on a municipal wastewater system, get that water treated in a plant and discharged properly, that could cut down a lot of the untreated sewage in the creek."
The total project cost will be about $5.6 million. Dornak said once Hillside Terrace is on the city's wastewater system, the service fees will be about $65 per home per month, and those fees will pay back the loan for the remaining $5.2 million of the project.
"It's our hope that this will end up being a self-funding project," Dornak said.