Richmond Hill gets state loan to help fund water, sewer work

BRYAN CO., GA (WTOC) - The Georgia Environmental Finance Authority awarded Richmond Hill a $2.9 million Georgia Fund loan to install water, sewer, and reuse water mains in the newly annexed portion of the city.

"We have a mantra here at city hall and have for the past year or so of infrastructure before development, " said Richmond Hill Mayor Russ Carpenter. "This loan - $2.9 million, really good interest rate - from the Georgia Fund will allow us to put our money where our mouth is."

The city will pay 1.75 percent interest on the 20-year loan, but Richmond Hill is already a WaterFirst Community, recognized for high water quality, which makes the city eligible for a reduced rate.

The loan will allow the city to bring needed infrastructure to the more than 5,000 acres annexed into the city at the end of 2017 that are currently undeveloped. The work should also improve water quality and conservation.

Those buying and building commercial or residential property in the new area will also be part of a special tax district to help pay for what the loan doesn't cover.

"For one, your city is doing what it says it's going to do - infrastructure before development - and number two, we're not paying for new developers to come in and build. The people that buy those homes and the developers will pay for this new infrastructure. The loans are paid back over a 20-year period, so it's a comfortable payment schedule in that the city can do that while it collects the taxes from the areas that are developing."

Carpenter said without the loan, the city likely couldn't pay for the projects without raising property taxes, and Sen. Ben Watson, R- Savannah, said state lawmakers should support cities like this.

"The State of Georgia should make it easier for local government to function, and this is one of the things that we do as a state I think we do in an appropriate manner," Watson said.

Carpenter didn't have an exact timeline for construction but said he expects work to start at the end of 2018 or the beginning of 2019. He said a new elementary school and new high school are slated to be built on the annexed land in 2020 and 2021, so the water and sewer lines must be in place ahead of construction.

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