Echo is moving forward with a sewer system upgrade and will ask voters in May to approve a bond issue to finance part of the $2.3 million project.

"I don't think we have much choice. We might as well dig right in," said Councilor Pat Wood at Thursday's City Council meeting before the council approved the project.

The council voted unanimously to move forward with seeking funding through a general obligation bond election and schedule the project.

Before the vote, Brad Baird of Anderson Perry and Associates Inc. presented the city with different funding options to start the project.

Baird said the timing couldn't be better for the city financially to move forward with the project.

"It's a much better picture than in the past," he said.

Baird said the city being qualified for the $1 million block grant will help with project's cost.

He said he has been researching ways the city can receive the additional funding to make up the remaining $1.3 million dollars, including favorable discussions with the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Rural Development department.

"They're begging for projects," Baird said.

Rural development, he said, is expecting to receive a large amount of the expected stimulus money coming to the state.

In those discussions, he said he has found a range of different grants or loans from the department that could be used to pay most of the upgrades' remaining cost.

Rural Development can provide a loan in a $750,000 range and a grant in the $500,000 range.

"Right now you can probably get a third of the remaining cost through grants," Baird said.

But while the money is available, the council still would have steps to complete before the city can receive the funds.

One of those steps is a bond election either based on revenue or a general obligation bond.

Baird said once the city has decided though, it will have to move quickly to educate the public about the election and fill out several reports, including an environmental impact report.

"We'll have to get the facts out to the public with brochures and hold public meetings," he said.

If the council were not to do these steps, it could risk losing the election, setting back the project again.

The council, he said, also can look at other funding options, including one through the state Department of Environmental Quality.

"Both have money filtering in right now, making it a good funding situation for you," Baird said.

Either way, Baird again said the city will need to act quickly before time runs out for a bond election.

"The reason I'm encouraging you to do this is if Rural Development doesn't allocate that money, it goes back into the national pool, which they don't like to do," he said.

Mayor Richard Winter voiced concerns about the current income of many of the city's citizens and the likely possibility of rates going up with the project.

"Many are on a limited income or are widows," Winter said.

After discussing the two bond elections, the council voted 6-0 to go with a general obligation bond election in May.

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