Council funds flow to $6.5m pipeline after years of hardship
THE Southern Downs Regional Council is about to start its largest infrastructure project in recent memory, following years of budget stagnation.
It handed Newlands Civil Construction a $6.5 million tender to replace the ageing raw water pipeline connecting Storm King Dam and the Mount Marley Water Treatment Plant.
Workers will start construction in March and the council expects it to be complete by December.
Mayor Tracy Dobie said until recently the council's capital works budget had run dry.
"Large infrastructure projects cost a lot of money and this council has been in financial difficulty for a considerable amount of time, but over the last couple of years we've been able to build a reserve of cash as a result of better managing our financial planning and spending,” she said.
"Now that we have reserves of cash we can get state and federal funding because, in lot of cases, small councils need to provide 40-60 per cent of the cost of a project.”
Cr Dobie said the council borrowed more than $30 million in the early years after amalgamation, which lead to it being placed on a Queensland Government blacklist.
This further hindered its ability to secure state and federal grants.
"We couldn't do any of these large projects,” she said.
The debt was reduced by a third over the past three years.
Now the grant money is flowing again Cr Dobie said council identified a number of high priority projects and the top of the list was the Storm King Dam pipeline.
It was built in 1954 and is deteriorating fast. It has failed a number of times in the past few years and is at the end of its useful life.
The council decided it was not economically viable to repair due to the brittle nature and age of the pipe.
Repair costs had increased each year as did probability of significant breakdown.
At the times the pipeline has cracked and supply of raw water to Stanthorpe has been temporarily cut.
"We don't want that to happen so we are building this parallel pipeline,” Cr Dobie said.
The council will contribute about $2.6 million towards the cost of the build with a further $3.9 million supplied by the Queensland Government.
Other priority projects include a new waste water plant for Allora and a supplementary water reserve fro Stanthorpe.
"Water and waste water are our biggest priorities,” Cr Dobie said.
The pipeline project is expected to generate 25 jobs during construction.
The only projects close to the scale of the Storm King Dam Pipeline include the Allora town water supply valued at about $5 million and built in 2013, and the Warwick Water Treatment Plant that cost about $2.5 million.