Exeter seeks out state dollars for more water projects

City staff approaches state’s Drinking Water State Revolving Fund to find extra money for other water projects

EXETER – As the hot days of summer approach the city of Exeter is in the process of requesting state funding and determining what projects to prioritize in order to keep up with residents demands.

The city authorized an application to the Drinking Water State Revolving Fund, a program that assists public water systems in financing the cost of drinking water infrastructure projects through low to no-interest loans, principal forgiveness and technical assistance. Once the status of that application is finalized, the city will have a clearer idea of which projects to finance, said City Manager Adam Ennis. 

“We don’t have a specific project picked out at this point, the first portion of this is to do some planning work to determine what the project will consist of,” Ennis said. 

Some of these projects might include rehabilitating abandoned wells, updating water system control infrastructure, conducting pump testing and increasing water storage capacity. Before any of that can be decided, Ennis said, the city must oversee initial planning steps like environmental studies and designing. 

The Drinking Water State Revolving Fund offers principal assistance on loans to water systems serving disadvantaged communities. As of now, it is unclear whether or not Exeter fits into that category. 

“That’s what one of our big questions is. We don’t know where we will fit in their criteria,” Ennis said. “We’ve indicated to the council that if we can get a grant that doesn’t have to be paid back, we will start developing a project. However, if the state comes back with a loan, then we would bring it back to consider whether or not to proceed with it.” 

Exeter’s issues with their water infrastructure have been well documented. Until recently there was little in the water or sewer fund reserves to keep up with regular maintenance. “There is no money to replace pipes, and some of these are 80-90 years old,” Ennis said in an interview with The Sun-Gazette in 2019. “You’ve got to squeeze every drop of life of every piece of machinery we got and replace it when we have to…that’s the least expensive way to do this.”

The city successfully raised their sewer and water rates in 2020 to help rebuild their floundering enterprise funds. Since 2020 the city has been handling repairs in accordance with their water master plan that was finalized in August 2019. The plan called for several significant repairs to wells, pumps and sewer lift stations, which have already been taken care of.

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