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Water problem clouds bond issue

February 8, 2013

FORSAN – There's always something.

As they have worked their way toward calling for a bond election to finance a new elementary school, Forsan Independent School District officials have tried to balance what they want with what they think the district's taxpayers can afford.

So, you can imagine their reaction when they learned the price tag might be boosted by a couple million dollars.

The culprit? Wastewater.

FISD Superintendent Randy Johnson said administrators learned within the last month the district's septic system has been ruled inadequate by the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality.

“The CEQ has established guidelines on how much wastewater can be provided for in a septic system (such as FISD has),” Johnson said. “If those guidelines are exceeded, you have to go with a wastewater treatment system. By their calculations, we are over the guidelines at both (Elbow Elementary and the junior high/high school campus).”

FISD is looking at several wastewater treatment options, but none are cheap. High-end estimates are around $2 million per system, Johnson said. Nor can the district pipe the water to Big Spring for treatment.
“We looked into that,” Johnson said, “and we found it would cost us about $41 a foot to build the pipe, plus whatever Big Spring would charge us for treating the wastewater.”

Oddly enough, however, this added expense strengthens the district's argument for building a new elementary next to the junior high/high school building – if the district maintains elementary operations at Elbow, it will have to build treatment plants at both locations, effectively doubling the cost to taxpayers, while only one system would be needed if the campuses were adjacent to each other.

“If Elbow stays open, we'd need a treatment plant there, and I don't know if that would even be possible, because we don't own enough property in that area to build a plant,” Johnson said. “This was kind of the final straw that broke the idea of us staying at the Elbow campus.”

Final figures for the bond amount have not been settled upon, but Johnson said a preliminary estimate has been set at $20 million, which would pay for a new elementary campus, the water treatment plant and some renovations at the junior high/high school building.

FISD trustees will meet with Parkhill, Smith & Cooper architects when they hold their monthly meeting Feb. 11. At that time, a firm estimate for the bond should be established, Johnson said.

A final decision whether to call for a May bond election will likely happen Feb. 25, he added.

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