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Northwest Albany water tower will eliminate low water pressure issues

Construction on $2 million project could begin as early as July or August

The 750,000-gallon water tower that will be erected in Northwest Albany soon is similar to this one off Hill Road in East Albany. The new tower will eliminate water pressure problems in the region. (Staff photo: Carlton Fletcher)

The 750,000-gallon water tower that will be erected in Northwest Albany soon is similar to this one off Hill Road in East Albany. The new tower will eliminate water pressure problems in the region. (Staff photo: Carlton Fletcher)

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The new water tower planned for Northwest Albany will be built in the wooded area directly behind the Family Worship Center at the end of Kensington Court. (Staff photo: Carlton Fletcher)

ALBANY — The city’s Water, Gas & Light Commission passed a motion of support Wednesday for moving forward with a Northwest Albany water tower project designed to eliminate water pressure problems in part of the region.

WG&L Assistant General Manager Keith Goodin updated commissioners on the tower project at the second of their March meetings, noting that the projected $2 million funding for the 750,000-gallon tank and tower and 1,845 linear feet of water main would come in the form of a Georgia Environmental Finance Agency loan recently approved by the agency.

The loan would be repaid at 1.4 percent interest over a 20-year period.

“This board has already approved the tower, but I wanted to update everyone on where we are in the process,” Goodin said. “People and businesses in a portion of West Albany from North Gillionville Road, through the mall area and north have problems with low pressure that are so bad sometimes they can’t even flush their toilets. They’re located at high points in the city, and there have been times when their pressure has dropped into the 30s (psi). If it gets below 20, we have to put out a boil-water notice, per the EPD.

“Every foot of elevation causes an almost 1/2-psi drop, and while most of Albany is located at lower elevations, that high area has had problems that we believe this relatively small tank will solve. It’s going to mean better fire protection, too.”

The tower will be located on an acre of land WG&L purchased from the state Department of Transportation for $43,000 in a wooded area directly behind the Family Worship Center at the end of Kensington Court. The structure will be 328 feet above sea level and 133 feet above ground.

“That location is the least intrusive we could find,” Goodin said. “I don’t think you could find a better site in Northwest Albany.”

The WG&L assistant GM pointed out a number of completed items on a water tower timeline he developed, including design of the tower, FAA height approval, EPD approval and an easement signed by the Family Worship Center. He said pending approval of the GEFA loan by the City Commission, construction on the tower could begin as early as July or August and be completed in a year.

“I’m proud to say that, to date, we’ve spent no money outside our office to get the project to this point,” Goodin noted.

Interim WG&L GM Tom Berry used the need for the tower to make a point about one of his primary concerns for the utility’s future.

“I don’t particularly like ‘what ifs’,” Berry said, “but if Albany had gone ahead and provided water for South Lee County as was proposed, that tank could have been put in years ago and paid for using the revenue generated. That’s why we have to look for these kinds of opportunities in the future.”

Also at Wednesday’s meeting, held a day earlier than planned because Mayor Dorothy Hubbard — the board’s de facto chairwoman — will be in Atlanta today accepting an award, Berry gave the board updates on a pending portfolio the Municipal Gas Authority of Georgia needs all its members to approve and on WG&L’s plan to utilize third-party billing.

Berry said the City Commission must sign off on the Gas Authority portfolio, which will carry a possible maximum amount of $1.5 billion, because the city is ultimately obligated to secure any potential debt.

“Under this portfolio, (the Gas Authority) can issue bonds that allow them to go out and secure long-term gas supplies,” Berry said.

The board voted to approve South Data as its third-party billing manager, a move expected to cut costs through lower mail rates and extensive electronic billing for customers who prefer that method.