Kiln Fire and Water District leaders have a tough decision to make within the next two weeks. Should they accept loan and grant money from the federal government to build a sewer system in the Hancock County community? The decision may sound like a no brainer, but as Al Showers found out, taking the loan would mean higher water bills for residents.
The Kiln is the fastest growing community in Hancock County with a growing population of more than 3,000. New homes and businesses are quickly changing the rural landscape of the community.
Kiln business owner Lauly Peterson perhaps knows that better than anyone.
"The growth is here. It's just moving so fast it's hard to keep up with."
Peterson says a Sewer System would ensure smart growth in the community.
"A centralized sewer system would not only promote growth, but real positive growth."
Right now most homes in the Kiln community are connected to septic tanks. For environmental reasons, Water District leaders would like to see homes connected to a centralized sewer system.
The District applied for a $3 million grant and loan from the USDA Rural Development to help build a sewer system in the Kiln.
The trouble is repaying the loan portion would translate to more than $55 a month for customers. The average monthly rate across the state is $25 a month. That means Kiln water bills would more than triple with water and sewer service.
Water District Vice President Larry Ladner told WLOX News, "We've instructed our engineer to explore all avenues to ensure we got our sewer bill user fees down to a level that our people can afford. We're very strongly committed to the people of Kiln and providing them with sewer treatment that's affordable."
The district risks losing out on the grant and loan money if leaders don't make a decision within the next two weeks.
State Rural Development Director Nick Walters told Water District leaders, "We have to spend our money this fiscal year the way our allocation works. If we don't allocate our money by a certain day then we have to turn the unobligated money back in to Washington for other states to use. We don't want to do that."
Water District leaders told the Rural Development Director they would have a decision for him before the two week deadline.