ENTERPRISE – Three potential lenders are each offering millions of dollars to fund a major upgrade of the city’s water system, but it’s hardly a contest as to which of the sources city officials will try to tap.

Enterprise faces a 2016 deadline for completing improvements to its citywide water system, which currently fails to meet firefighting pressure requirements in some locations. The planned project would add a new reservoir and eliminate the current multiplicity of water pressure zones, creating a single, even level of pressure throughout the system.

Enterprise isn’t actually close to project launch. According to city administrator Michele Young, that’ll probably come no earlier than 2014, after the city spends 2013 educating the public about the undertaking.

When they’re ready to flash the green light, though, officials will no doubt opt for the Safe Drinking Water Revolving Loan Fund (SDWRLF). The state-administered program finances eligible drinking water infrastructure projects in Oregon.

Troy Baker, of La Grande engineering firm Anderson Perry & Associates, recently presented the Enterprise city councilors findings from a “one-stop” meeting Oregon’s Infrastructure Finance Authority (IFA) sponsored Feb. 20 in La Grande. The event, attended also by Young and Enterprise public works director Ron Neil, provided a chance to quickly compare funding options for municipal water projects.

The water project carries an estimated price-tag of $5.7 million, necessitating a loan and probably an increase in water rates to repay it.

For Enterprise, gaining funding through SDWRLF would reduce the city’s total repayment burden by a whopping $3 million, as compared to the next-best of the three lender choices, USDA’s Rural Utilities Service program. The third prospective source of project financing, Wedbush Securities’ Public Finance Group, would require a larger repayment total still – $10.3 million, compared to USDA’s $8.8 million, and the lowest burden, from SDWRLF, $5.5 million.

The comparisons were provided in a spreadsheet prepared by Baker. According to the spreadsheet, the SDWRLF loan comes with a $750,000 grant, reducing the amount of the loan itself to $4.8 million. The loan would be a 30-year note with an interest rate of 1 percent.

Water pressure is a major factor ultimately affecting property owners’ fire insurance rates. According to Young, Oregon cities’ water systems are rated every 10 years by the Insurance Service Organization (ISO), and Enterprise’s most recent ISO rating, around eight years ago, reflected the system’s problems, causing local insurance bills to rise.

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