TYLER, Texas (KETK) – The Smith County Commissioners Court approved an agreement on Tuesday with the City of Winona and East Texas Municipal Utility District (ETMUD) to pay for a water and sewer project.

The $3.7 million project will be paid for using ARPA funding.

“I was convinced that this was the last water/sewer project that we absolutely needed to get done,” County Judge Nathaniel Moran said. “It will have the biggest impact on a rural community in Smith County.”

Commissioner Precinct 3 Terry Phillips said the project will not only help the City of Winona, but one of Smith County’s largest hospitals UT Health Northeast with their ongoing water and sewer issues.

Officials said the City of Winona has struggled with Texas Commission on Environmental Quality compliance for wastewater discharge for more than 10 years and fined more than $90,000.

“The waste water plant was built in approximately 1975. We’ve been out of compliance for at least 10 years. We’ve needed to renew our system, update our system for approximately 30 years is my understanding,” said Rachel Moreno, Mayor of Winona.

According to a previous presentation by Lane Thompson with ETMUD, the city’s inability to maintain wastewater treatment compliance “could slow or halt the economic growth and ability to receive funding in the future.”

The agreement, estimated to cost $3,677,516, plans to construct a lift station and a force main, close the city’s current wastewater plant and instead send its wastewater to ETMUD’s plant for treatment.

“I couldn’t think of a better way to spend ARPA funds than this project,” Phillips said.

Benefits from the agreement are estimated to include:

  • Lower operation and maintenance costs for Winona residents
  • Regionalization of wastewater treatment
  • Improved water quality for Sabine River Basin
  • Increased marketability and tax valuation for commercial property in the area

“We’ve been trying different ways to help Winona out to get them in compliance, so these ARPA funds became available we put in for it for this purpose only,” said Edward Lejeune, East Texas M.U.D.

Smith County was originally allocated more than $45 million in ARPA funds by the federal government with the intent of providing relief funding from the COVID-19 pandemic and its resulting economic impact.

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