The City of Greenville is a rural town located in western Georgia about 50 miles southwest of Atlanta. In 1980, the City built a sewerage system to meet the requirements of the Clean Water Act. Prior to this project, only certain portions of the City were connected to an open oxidation pond constructed in 1909. The remaining portions of the City sent raw sewage into nearby creeks.
The total cost of the project was approximately $2.0M, with grants providing about 90% of the funding and the City taking on a loan for $277,000 to be paid over 40 years. The loan was to be paid off by an increase in sewer rates.
In 2016, just shy of the 40-year loan completion, the City built a new sewer plant to replace the one built in 1980. This project cost $5.9M and was funded through the US Dept of Agriculture Rural Development Program. Most projects like this are funded with a grant for 60% of the project total, which results in a $2.4M low interest loan, probably paid over 40 years.
Since 1980, Greenville’s population has gone from 1,200 to 850, with 25% of the families living below the poverty line and a median household income of $32,000.
How can the citizens of Greenville expect to pay this debt, much less the operation and maintenance expenses of the system?
If all the trends continue, what will the numbers look like in 2060?
How do we reduce the infrastructure footprint of rural towns?