The city and county were flush with good news Friday on progress with the Duck River Dam and its financing.
Duck River Advisory Board Chairman Jimmy Knight said water will begin flowing from the Duck River Dam to the East Point water treatment plant next week, providing access to city water for 100,000 people.
“The water plant does an outstanding job,” said Knight. “The quality of water that comes out of the water plant is probably as good as anywhere in the United States of America.”
The Duck River Reservoir was born of a need for an additional water supply for the county following a severe drought in 2007.
Mayor Woody Jacobs said, “We were just that close to severe restrictions, but the lord blessed us with rain and it got back up. It really drove home to the public how needed this [project] was.”
Located six miles east of the Cullman water treatment plant, the reservoir is designed to meet the water needs of Cullman residents for the next 75 years or longer. The reservoir will be capable of pumping 24 million gallons of water per day.
Knight said the effort to build the reservoir has been a decades-long project that has required a lot of work and is a testament to the cooperation between the city, county, and all of the area’s water systems.
“We have a wonderful situation here, where everybody in Cullman County has got access to public water if they want it,” he said.
“It’s a great day for all of Cullman County,” said Jacobs. “Financially, it is huge for Cullman County to have a reliable source of water.”
Cullman County Commission Chairman Kenneth Walker said, “For the county, it helps our water rate. Right now, they’re probably going to stay about the same, but we don’t see any future increases with this news, for sure.”
It’s also good for economic development. “With companies coming to Cullman, they want to know about your fire department, how much water you got and about your sanitation,” said Walker. “We’ve got plenty of water for anyone that wants to come in.”
In further good news, the city announced that a refunding this week on the 2011 Duck River bond is going to save the Utilities Board nearly $20.5 million over the life of the bond.
City Clerk Wes Moore said they had the opportunity to refund the bond two years ago, for an $8 million savings, but decided to wait. “Over the past two years we saw the bond market would get better and then it would get worse,” he said. “It would ebb and flow.”
Earlier this year, they decided the time was right. “Timing in the bond market can save you millions or it cost you millions,” he said.
In a coincidence of timing, the Utilities Board received a bond upgrade from A to AA and the bond rate started dropping.
Moore said the savings of $20,490,238 is the largest savings in a bond refund they have ever received. “The bond terms were not extended, no money was borrowed; it was a simple, clean refunding of debt service payments,” he said.