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City of Electra, Texas

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TEXAS DEPARTMENT OF HOUSING AND COMMUNITY AFFAIRS

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE Contact:

Michael Lyttle 512/475-4542

Jill McFarren 512/475-3980

September 24, 2001

TDHCA awards $350,000 grant to

city of Electra for water improvements

(AUSTIN) — The Texas Department of Housing and Community Affairs (TDHCA) today announced that it has awarded a $350,000 Texas Community Development Program (TCDP) grant to the city of Electra. The award will provide funding for a project designed to alleviate high nitrate levels and bring the city of Electra into compliance with the Texas Natural Resource Conservation Commission's (TNRCC) water quality requirements. The project is being funded through TCDP’s Texas Small Towns Environment Program (Texas STEP), a unique self-help program administered by TDHCA.

"This is wonderful news for the good folks of Electra, who have struggled with water quantity and quality issues," said State Representative Rick L. Hardcastle. "This is a great example of what can be accomplished by a partnership of local and state resources utilizing Texas STEP. Electra's citizens and community leaders are to be applauded for taking advantage of this self-help program, and I commend the state agencies involved for their roles in bringing this project to fruition."

The Texas STEP program is an innovative approach to solving the water and wastewater needs in rural areas of Texas. "Through this program, residents provide a certain percentage of the labor themselves," explained Daisy Stiner, TDHCA Executive Director. "This self-help method encourages small towns and counties to look within their own communities for resources to bring to the table."

Stiner noted that communities working with Texas STEP grants and using this self-help approach have saved more than 40 percent on retail construction costs. "This saves cities and counties significant amounts of money and maximizes the number of citizens each project benefits," she said. Volunteers receive direction, technical expertise, and specialized equipment from TDHCA and contract engineering crews.

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TDHCA awards grant to city of Electra / Page 2 of 2

507 SABINE AUSTIN, TEXAS 78701 (512) 475-3800 FAX (512) 475-3800 Visit us on the world wide web at: www.tdhca.state.tx.us

TDHCA, in collaboration with TNRCC, the Texas Department of Health, the Texas Water Development Board, the General Land Office, and the Rensselaerville Institute, created Texas STEP to provide equipment, expertise, technical assistance, and funding options to rural communities experiencing water and wastewater problems.

The Texas Community Development Program provides financial assistance to cities under 50,000 in population and counties under 200,000 in population for public works, housing, economic development, planning projects, and activities improving living conditions in the state’s colonias. The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) is the funding source for this program. All TCDP projects must principally assist persons of low and moderate income in accordance with TDHCA and HUD rules.

The Texas Department of Housing and Community Affairs is Texas’ lead agency responsible for affordable housing, community development and community assistance programs, and regulation of the state’s manufactured housing industry. The Department annually administers funds in excess of $432 million, the majority of which are derived from mortgage revenue bond financing and refinancing, federal grants, and federal tax credits.

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Mayor looking for grants to get WF water

By Robert Morgan/Times Record News
December 29, 2004

Electra's mayor is looking to "beg, borrow or steal" funds to remedy the city's water system.

The city's most recent problem occurred Christmas weekend when unprotected equipment and heavy holiday demand dwindled Electra's water supply to a trickle Saturday, a problem the city has yet to overcome.

While Electra continues to refill its water levels, Mayor Glen Branch is considering joining with the Wichita Falls' water system. Branch said the potential project would cost between $6.5 million and $7 million, which he wants to obtain through grants to prevent raising taxes or water rates.

If he is able to obtain the grant funds, Branch said, the city would tie in with Wichita Falls by the end of 2005. He said a trip to Washington, D.C., has already been planned for him to attempt to gain project funding.

Scott Taylor, Wichita Falls director of public works, said his department is working to assist Electra in the grant process. In addition, the two cities have already decided on the water pipelines position. Wichita Falls currently supplies water to Iowa Park, Scotland, Holliday and other outlying regions, Taylor said.

Branch said he would request 1.5 million gallons of water a day from the Wichita Falls' system. It will flow through 14-inch pipe to the small township.

Electra businessman Ron Wilson said the tie-in would be "wonderful thing" but was told the best bet for funding was a United States Department of Agriculture grant. He said Electra had a "pie in the sky" chance of getting that.

For the short term, Branch wants to get the Electra's water system back on line and possibly dig some more water wells to accommodate his city's water consumption.

Electra has received help from Wichita County, Sheppard Air Force Base and Wal-Mart during their shortage, the mayor said.

The county pitched in by supplying 10,000 gallons of non-potable (non-drinkable) water for use in the event of a fire, Lee Bourgoin, the Wichita County emergency management coordinator, said. Area fire departments - Kamay, Wichita West and Iowa Park - have also been put on alert to assist.

"We are well prepared," Bourgoin said.

Sheppard sent the city two 400-gallon trucks containing potable drinkable water, and Wal-Mart sent two pallets of drinking water.

"We will take everything we can use right now," Larry Lundstrom, Electra's director of public works, said.

He said Electra was still in a "grave situation" regarding its water supply. The demand for water tripled over the holidays. The increased usage has continued and prevented Electra from refilling its tanks adequately.

The specific equipment problem involved newly installed probes - a mechanism that measures the tanks' water levels - located at the site of Electra's towers. The probes were wrapped with a heating element that was not able to prevent freezing.

"It was so cold for so long," Lundstrom said.

Thursday's temperature didn't get above 23 degrees followed by an equally freezing Friday, with a high of 28 degrees and a low of 11 degrees. Saturday began in the upper teens and eventually rose to a high of 52 degrees, according to the National Weather Service Web site.

Lundstrom said the frozen probes caused the tanks' water levels to appear full and the city's pumps to turn off. The equipment problem, accompanied with the higher than usual water usage, left Electra with almost nothing.

"It was like camping out in your own house," Wilson said.

He recounted a holiday season filled with no showers and the forced flushing of toilets.

"We need people to conserve for us to be able to catch up," Lundstrom said.

Despite Electra's call for conservation, Wilson said this most recent water problem - like those preceding it - was preventable.

"This is not a first time thing. We've had four outages this year, all precipitated by a lack of action and planning," he said. "It all boils down to they - city officials - had a lot of opportunity to prepare, a matter of timing."

Electra's Mayor Glenn Branch said the water supply was "a little better" on Tuesday.

"We only had trickles on Christmas," he said.

The probes have since been outfitted with a protective box containing a heating lamp, Lundstrom said.

Branch expects the water towers to be refilled and providing a continuous water supply by Friday. The return of flowing water doesn't mean that Electra is out of the woods, though, the city will still be under a boil alert for a week.

Water samples came back clear of contaminants from a Wichita Falls lab Tuesday, Lundstrom said, but the boil alert is still in effect because of the fear of a pressure drop. If the city's water pressure drops below 25 pounds of pressure, Electra must issue a boil alert.

Wilson said the city officials' lack of communication with the public is what caused Electra's water problems to "evolve into a crisis" in the first place. He said he assumes they are being truthful about this current problem.

Despite their differences of opinion, Wilson and Branch do agree on one aspect involving the city's water issue and its future. They both believe the town will eventually dry up if a constant water supply is not found soon.

Disclosure: Ron Wilson of Electra is the brother of Times Record News Editorial Page Coordinator Mark Wilson.

Regional Reporter Robert Morgan can be reached at (940) 720-3495, (800) 627-1646, Ext. 495, or via e-mail at morganr@TimesRecordNews.com.

 
 
City may be getting to bottom of holiday water shortage soon

By Robert Morgan/Times Record News
December 30, 2004

Electra officials discovered several water leaks Wednesday that may or may not have contributed to a diminishing water supply that has left some residents dry since last week.

"If the leaks found today are significant, we will see the results overnight," Steve Giesbrecht, Electra's city manager, said Wednesday.

The main leak causing worry is at the city's high school, he said. A broken water pipe measuring 1-1.5 inches was discovered while the school was being prepared for next week's re-opening after the holiday break.

Electra Mayor Glen Branch believes freezing temperatures caused the break. He said the leak went undiscovered because no one made rounds of the school during the holidays.

Giesbrecht said no one knows how long the pipe had been flowing, but the loss might have been significant. Officials won't know how the leak affected Electra's water supply until water levels are checked today.

In addition to the school leak, Giesbrecht said about five houses had also reported small leaks and he expects more reports to flow in.

"When the weather gets that cold if we had problems with our equipment, a lot of others are bound to have had leaks," he said.

Larry Lundstrom, Electra's director of public works, said the school leak has been fixed and the household leaks are scheduled to be fixed.

Leaks are the hardest problems to search for when trying to determine the cause of water loss, Giesbrecht said. He's been looking at three elements during Electra's water shortage - equipment failure, water usage and leaks.

Giesbrecht said leaks are the hardest to find because they could be in a vacant house or somewhere in the water system. Lundstrom toured the city by helicopter looking for big leaks, he said.

"We've checked out a lot of puddles," Giesbrecht said.

Electra's water problems began last Thursday with residents experiencing water stoppages and low pressure. During Electra's holiday water shortage, Giesbrecht said not everyone ran out of water, instead others experienced a loss in water pressure depending on their area of town.

Lundstrom said the frozen instruments caused the tanks' water levels to appear full and the city's pumps to turn off. The equipment problem accompanied by high usage over the holiday left Electra with almost no water.

Regional Reporter Robert Morgan can be reached at (940) 720-3495, (800) 627-1646, Ext. 495, or via e-mail at morganr(at)TimesRecordNews.com.

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