Joined by leaders from five Kern County communities, Rep. Kevin McCarthy announced the introduction of a bill to help give rural cities and towns a better shot at federal money for wastewater treatment facilities.
"You find many of these cities across Kern County are at the point where they can't have any more growth because they need to expand their wastewater capacity," McCarthy said.
The Small and Rural Communities Wastewater Infrastructure Act (H.R. 4352) would set aside 30 percent of the federal money used to build or improve wastewater treatment sites for cities and unincorporated communities with under 50,000 residents. The money would come in the form of low-interest loans.
Both small cities and unincorporated areas would be eligible to apply for the loans to build the infrastructure needed to accomodate more residents and business.
"This allows them to do the preparations without raising consumer rates by up to 300 percent," McCarthy said.
It would help cities like Taft, which wants to double its wastewater capacity and spur growth, Bob Gorson, Taft's city manager said.
For a small city, it's very hard to be shovel-ready because you just don't have the budget to do the engineering," he said. "Now we can actually be prepared so we can be on the shelf and ready to go when we're ready to be funded."
The facilities help clear impurities that can be common in wastewater
"Making money available to be able to expand to take care of the tertiary water and arsenic will make our jobs a lot easier," said Kathleen Spoor, president of the Rosamond Community Services District. "We will be able to satisfy the needs of our community."
An estimated 82 percent of the money for wastewater facilities currently goes to larger cities, Gorson said.
"This bill helps create a level playing field," he added.
When the House of Representatives reconvenes next week, the search will be on to find co-sponsors for the bill, McCarthy said.
He does not expect partisan bickering over his bill, since it is something he believes is needed for small towns across America regardless of party lines, he said.