Airport improvements could play role in Caterpillar plan


Aug. 25, 2010 at 3:25 a.m.

Caterpillar's plan to build a plant in Victoria could generate more air traffic, prompting county officials to work on a plan to make airport improvements.

The county will apply for a $683,000 grant that officials hope will help refurbish the Victoria Regional Airport's failing sewer system.

"With Caterpillar coming in, we're right down the road," County Commissioner Gary Burns said. "We need to use our head and put this grant money where it will do the most good."

The improvements will be underground, making it difficult for taxpayers to see what they're getting for their tax money. But county officials agree it's something that needs to be done to support the airport.

Caterpillar has announced it plans to break ground next month on a $120 million to $150 million plant in Victoria to manufacture two lines of hydraulic excavators. The plant, which will be at the Lone Tree Business Center, will employ about 500 people when it's fully operational in 2014.

Joyce Dean, the county's director of Administrative Services, said she's not sure when the county will hear whether the project qualifies for the grant.

But she said one of the major benefits is that repair of the sewer system will help protect the environment.

"It's failing and it has a potential to contaminate the water sources," Dean said. "I think the grant can pay to accomplish quite a bit of the work - 70 to 75 percent of it possibly."

Burns said he's hopeful county crews can then be used to finish the work.

Burns said the repairs will have a secondary benefit for the county by reducing the utility bill it pays to the city for sewer service. He said the system is in such bad shape that heavy rains infiltrate it through cracks, holes and manholes.

The storm water is then discharged and treated as sewage and the county is charged for it.

"Our utility bills are just through the ceiling," Burns said. "We think we're going to be able to save, in a couple of years, enough money on our utilities to pay for a good portion of our part of it."



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