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USDA reviewing Ferriday water project

FERRIDAY — U.S. Department of Agriculture officials said Tuesday they are waiting for financial documents to decide if and how much additional funds to provide the Town of Ferriday for its water system overhaul.

The water improvement project includes three separate projects — switching the city’s water supply from Old River to ground water wells, replacing outdated and non-functioning water meters and improving the town’s water treatment facility.

Improvements will be paid through a $5 million grant and $1.4 million loan from the USDA.

The town plans to repay the loan over the course of 40 years and maintain the water system with a $6 increase in water rates, which was approved at an August board of aldermen meeting and went into effect immediately following the meeting.

But after all the bids were received and engineering, attorney fees and other costs were factored in, the project totaled $7,105,520, which was $305,864 over the initial projected total.

Mayor Gene Allen said he’s been in constant contact with USDA officials in hopes of receiving the additional funding to keep the project moving forward.

“We’ve sent them everything they need, and we’re hoping to have everything ready to get a contract sent out as soon as possible,” Allen said. “I don’t know how it’s going to work, but we’re probably going to need $500,000 more.

“That may be in the grant, or I may have to borrow some of it.”

USDA Louisiana State Director Clarence W. Hawkins said his office is waiting to get cost-analysis reports back from engineers and other officials working with the project before any additional funding is approved.

Initial estimates, Hawkins said, show the town needing between $300,000 to $500,000 in additional funding for the project.

“Those papers are being prepared right now, but we have not approved any amount,” Hawkins said. “They’re preparing a package to submit to us that will show us all the costs, as well as the revenue stream to see if that’s going to be sufficient enough to support the funding.

“If all those numbers are real, we will consider it and approve it, but there has to be a strong likelihood and evidence that the loan can be repaid or any significant adjustments should be made to the grant portion.”

Hawkins said he would be working with town officials to keep the project moving.

“I’ve been here four years now, and it was in the works when I got here,” Hawkins said. “The cost of everything has gone up, and we’re working the project with great haste, but this water project is a fluid situation.”

Construction is scheduled to begin in early 2014, with the entire project finishing by 2018.

“We’re going to be a more progressive city once we get our water situation fixed,” Allen said. “It will be a blessing for this community.”