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Riceboro gets $7.4M for sewer, water work
Bill Austin
Mayor Bill Austin - photo by File photo
The city of Riceboro celebrated Earth Day with the announcement that it has received USDA rural development funding to expand wastewater treatment to more than 200 of its residents. The combined grant and loan total $7,495,200 and will be used to tie in former septic system users to the city’s sewer service.
“We started working on this grant as soon as we came into office. That was one of the original goals of our administration, to secure funding to provide sewer service to all residents,” Riceboro Mayor Bill Austin said. “The immediate benefit is to replace failing septic systems. We have a number of residents with failing systems, and drain fields get clogged. It can
be a public health hazard.”
Broken down, funds include a grant for $4,998,200 and a loan for $2,487,200, made available through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. Treatment capacity will expand from 100,000 gallons per day to 350,000. In addition to the residential tie-in, the expansion will provide service to SNF Holdings.
Austin said though some cost will be incurred by residents who are tying into the city system, “we’ve taken pains to make that impact as minimal as possible.” While hooking up a rural population is challenging because the cost per resident is higher, overall there’s value in doing so because of the cost to maintain septic systems through drainage and clean-out services, he said. “Public service will provide some relief to them because to have septic systems pumped or cleaned out is expensive.”
Riceboro previously received a community development block grant in 2008 to provide sewer service to 26 residents, plus $10,000 for an additional 28 residents. Austin said the city continued to work through 2009 to secure funding for more expansion, namely through the USDA’s rural development program.
The 2000 Census population count for Riceboro was roughly 800 but Austin said this year’s Census is expected to find more residents who could be served by a public sewer system.
Shirley Sherrod, USDA’s Georgia director of rural development, also attended the event and praised the city’s efforts to grow and provide better services to residents.  “I’m so impressed with the level of leadership you’ve had through the years and with the leadership you have now. You don’t see that everywhere,” Sherrod said. “I’m proud of the role that rural development is playing in this area.”
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