Florala Utilities gets $1M 

Published 11:59 pm Monday, February 16, 2009

Florala Utilities Board now has more than $1 million at its disposal to use as matching grant funds for future infrastructure projects, Chairman Marvin Williford said Monday.

Utilities Board manager Lynn Hughes said the board closed on the $1,005,000 bond measure last week. It will use $300,000 of the funds to reimburse an out-of-pocket match for grants obtained for the renovation and modification of the Florala-Lockhart Sewer Treatment Plant and grit chamber, projects initiated in 2005 and 2006.

The remaining $665,000 will be used as matching funds for future projects, she said.

“The board’s next priority is the rehabilitation/lining of existing sanitary sewer mains and water mains on Main Street,” she said. “This project is projected to cost nearly $2 million, and with the new funds from the 2009 Bond Indenture, the board will be able to provide the matching funds at approximately $400,000.”

Williford said that improvement, along with the idea of expanding the board’s natural gas system, will hopefully make Florala an ideal location for industry.

“We have got to get sewer up to the (Florala Municipal) airport area so we can get it ready for industry,” he said. “That’s our main goal. We have to work on infrastructure to bring in industry. A great example is the Andalusia (South Alabama Regional) Airport. Look at all the jobs that have come in up there. We can’t even begin to attract people on that level until we have the infrastructure in place.”

Williford said the board is also making plans to expand its natural gas system — “if it’s feasible.”

“We’re getting ready to do a survey and see if it’s feasible to run into Lockhart in the residential areas and to the school,” he said. “With electricity going up, natural gas is the way to go. As far as the gas system goes, we’re losing more customers than we’re picking up. We have to work on that.”

Other plans include working toward installing additional infrastructure at the industrial park.

Despite talk of hard economic times, Williford said the board has made sound financial decisions and the bond measure is proof of those decisions.

“This board is ready to do something,” he said. “Nothing has been done for so long. Sometimes you have to take a chance and get something done. When you can match a grant, you come that much closer to getting it. Because if you don’t have the money to do your part, you lose out. We don’t want that.”