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INDEPENDENCE — Grayson County residents won't have to foot the entire bill for the Grant community water extension project that will serve the new Grayson Highlands School near Volney.
Congressman Rick Boucher and U.S. senators Mark Warner and Jim Webb announced last week that Grayson County would receive $1.057 million to construct the new system.
The funding is a result of the economic recovery act approved by Congress and will come from the U.S. Department of Agriculture through its Rural Development Agency.
The total amount includes a grant of $767,000 and a low-interest federal loan of $290,000.
In July, supervisors awarded the construction bid on the project to Carolina Grading & Utilities, Inc. of Jefferson, N.C. in the amount of $762,284.50 — which includes an additive that will bring the total possible connections up to 75 homes.
Originally, engineers estimated the cost at $825,675.
The county has $660,000 for water services in the loan to build the new school, but Grayson will save substantially on that number with the grant monies approved.
Boucher said in a press release last week that, "with the addition of the federal funds announced today, the Ninth Congressional District has received more than $60 million to date to construct new or improve existing water and wastewater systems."
Sen. Webb agreed: "I am pleased that Grayson County will receive these necessary funds to provide safe drinking water and water treatment systems while bolstering the local economy and reducing future costs."
In total, the county will install three miles of water lines throughout the Grant community, which will provide public water service to a possible 75 homes — which previously did not have access to safe and reliable public water service.
The new water system will also enable further growth in the number of residents and businesses in the Grant community.
"Adequate and reliable water and wastewater systems are essential to maintaining Southwest Virginia's excellent quality of life and to achieving our economic development goals for the region," Boucher said. "Today's announcement will assist our ongoing work to expand water and wastewater systems throughout Southwest Virginia."
In July, County Administrator Jonathan Sweet notified the board that the loan could be coming and added that proceeds from the potential new water hookup fees would be put back on the county's debt service — greatly reducing Grayson's loan payment.
With official confirmation of the funding, the contractors should begin mobilizing within two weeks.
The contract mandates that the base line to the school be completed within 70 calendar days. A $500-per-day penalty will be assessed for each day over that limit.
Contractors will have an additional 80 days to complete the added loop, but the understanding is that the school work must be completed first.
Because the grant and loan monies are greater than the cost of the project, Sweet said that the county is looking at other projects that could be done with the grant money — such as extending the water line ever further.
"Staff is looking at optimizing every dollar," he told supervisors in July.
The county also is looking into possibly dropping fiber optic lines as the ditch is dug for the water lines to the new school. Although USDA officials have said previously it is not an approved project, Sweet said he is continuing to investigate whether it can be done.
The project includes approximately 17,000 linear feet of 8-inch water line and related improvements. The additional bid includes approximately 6,700 linear feet of 8-inch and 6-inch water line and related improvements.
The Town of Troutdale will provide water to the school, though the county has yet to reach a formal agreement on the purchase price.
The new school is expected to open during the Christmas break between semesters. If the school is not ready to open on time because of the water line, it would be a setback of $50,000 per month for the county.