Vidalia aldermen approve proposal for $8.3 million upgrades to water plant

Published 11:20 am Wednesday, December 15, 2021

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VIDALIA — The Vidalia Board of Aldermen on Tuesday unanimously agreed to enter the design phase for an upgrade to the town’s water plant.

The upgrade would double the town’s water treatment capacity, potentially attracting industrial developers, and would provide backup support if one should ever break down in a storm such as the severe winter ice storm last February, said engineer Doug Wimberly of Neel-Schaffer Inc.

“After the freeze of last year everyone saw the importance of having that increased capacity,” Wimberly said.

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The project scope would build one new, independently-running water treatment plant and upgrade its existing plant for an estimated cost of $8.3 million. A second proposal to simply increase the original plant’s capacity would cost approximately $7.2 million Wimberly said.

He added having two functional plants would not only clean the city’s water at double the capacity but would provide redundancy so that, should something go wrong at one of the plants, the city could run water with the other while repairs are made and not have to shut down.

“A pro of the higher cost is you essentially have two independent plants. If one goes down, you can still run on the other plant,” he said. “It provides a whole lot of flexibility and backup.”

Vidalia Mayor Buz Craft said included with this project is adding needed fencing and security to the water treatment facility so that no one can enter without clearance.

“I want this to be the Fort Knox of water plants,” he said.

Wimberly estimated construction at the plants could take 18 months to two years depending on how long it would take materials to come in current shortages of building materials.

“These are post-COVID projections,” he said.

He added because there are two water plants under construction, the town should not see any interruption in service.

Wimberly said with the board’s approval, they can take the conceptual designs for the new plant and move into a detailed design phase and “have those plans ready” to later seek legislative approval for project funding.

In other matters during Tuesday’s meeting of the Vidalia Mayor and Board of Aldermen, the board unanimously passed a resolution approving Syrah Technology Resource’s application for Louisiana Industrial Property Tax Exemption Program.

The program would give the graphite milling plant up to a 10-year 80% annual cut on property tax as they undertake a $137.5 million expansion to a commercial-level manufacturing company.

The same resolution has been passed by the Concordia Parish School Board and parish Police Jury in recent weeks, allowing the company to move forward with its application.