County awards $5.5 million in grant funding to Hardin and Ames to fix sewer systems

Hardin Mayor Harry Johnson and Ames Mayor Cornelius Gilmore (right) appeared at the March 8 Liberty County Commissioners Court meeting regarding a request for grant funding to fix the cities' broken wastewater systems.

Repairs to the wastewater systems for the cities of Hardin and Ames are no longer pipe dreams after Liberty County commissioners court on Tuesday, March 8, approved $5.5 million in America Rescue Plan grant funding.

For years, the two cities have battled issues with their poorly-designed and constructed wastewater systems, which has resulted in manholes below the flood line, and numerous breaks and cracks. As neither of the two cities has a wastewater treatment plant, their wastewater is pumped to the City of Liberty, which charges the cities fees to process the wastewater.

Each city has an agreement with the City of Liberty that has been threatened at times because of excess wastewater being sent through the lines, much of it caused by storm run-off that should have been diverted to other drainage systems.

“It’s a problem for Liberty with their permitting,” explained Matthew Gott, city attorney for Ames and Hardin. The City of Liberty now has set a July 1 deadline for repairs to be made.

Gott explained to commissioners that Ames and Hardin, when their systems were installed 20 years old, used the same contractor, who is involved in litigation with other cities over shoddy work.

Liberty County was awarded roughly $17.5 million in grant funding through the America Rescue Plan. To receive their portion of the funding approved by commissioners, each city must enter into an interlocal agreement with the county, and Austin-based Grant Works will act as the grant administrator.

Hardin Mayor Harry Johnson and Ames Mayor Cornelius Gilmore were in court Tuesday to help Gott pitch the plan to commissioners. They thanked commissioners for voting in favor of the funding. After the meeting, Johnson and Gilmore told Bluebonnet News that their cities are already working on repairs.

“This won’t be enough to build a new sewer plant, which costs about $11 million, but this is enough to fix all our lines,” said Johnson. “We won’t be sending extra water through the system and getting extra billed for it. Our system is so flawed right now. It has a bunch of cracked lines and separations.”

Gilmore is still hoping to find grant funding for a future wastewater treatment plant in Ames.

“There is a grant that could possibly help us get a sewer plant,” he said. “We looked at what they have in the city of Devers and said, ‘Hey, if they can do it, we can do it, too.'”

In other business, commissioners provided conditional approval of development elements for Kingland Subdivision, a 4,000-acre development located southeast of Plum Grove along the upcoming Grand Parkway Segment I that links US 59 in Liberty County to I-10 in Chambers County. The conditional approval allows the developer to shrink lot sizes from 50 feet to 40 feet as long as other design conditions are met, such as wide concrete streets, concrete curb and gutter, sidewalks on all streets, and greenways that preserve trees and act as a sound buffer for the highway.

Commissioners also approved the final plat for Encino Estates Section Five in Kenefick.

David Douglas, the County’s development administrator, called the Encino Estates Subdivision one of the “better developments” in the county. He said the development has homes for first-time buyers and million-dollar estates, and everything in between. Lots are between six-tenths of an acre and a full acre.

“When they finish, Encino Estates will have approximately 1,000 homes,” said Douglas.

County Judge Jay Knight also read a proclamation celebrating March 2022 as the 50th anniversary of the Older Americans Act Nutrition Program. Representatives from the South Liberty County Meals on Wheels program were on hand to accept the proclamation and to share news that they plan to expand the meal delivery program to Dayton in the coming weeks.

South Liberty County Meals on Wheels representatives Mike Allison, Emily Cook, Pam Milentz and Hannah Taylor hold the proclamation they were presented by Liberty County Judge Jay Knight (right) at the March 8 commissioners court meeting.

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