State of the County

Gregg County Judge Bill Stoudt speaks in November 2020 during the State of the County address.

Federal COVID relief funds funneled through Gregg County will help the Liberty City Water Supply Corp. upgrade its system.

The project will bring “generational change” to the western part of the county served by the nonprofit organization, said Gregg County Judge Bill Stoudt. Gregg County Commissioners this week agreed to kick in $3 million of what will be a total $6 million project. The county’s portion will come from more than $24 million in federal COVID relief funds provided by the American Rescue Plan.

Ray Player, president of the water supply corporation’s board, told commissioners Monday the project will upgrade the water and sewer system.

“Otherwise, we’re going to have to have a serious rate increase or we’re going to have to limit our service,” he said.

The Liberty City Water Supply Corp.’s service area is 25 square miles, Player said — half the size of the city of Longview and almost as large as the cities of White Oak and Kilgore together. It includes 9.5 miles of Interstate 20 frontage and 3.5 miles of Texas 31 frontage. The organization services 6,000 water customers and 2,000 sewer customers, including the Precinct 3 constable’s office, the Marvin A. Smith jail facility, Sabine schools, Gregg County Emergency Services District 2 and a portion of Kilgore.

General Manager Craig Sherwood said this week engineering and permitting for the project will begin immediately. He said construction could start in 2022, but that start date could be affected by supply chain issues or COVID-19 should it become more of a problem again.

The Liberty City Water Corp.’s water system was originally built in the 1960s and the wastewater system in the 1970s.

“Like all infrastructure, it’s aging over time. The key is to start replacing and upgrading things before you start having failures and interruptions of service,” Sherwood said.

The water supply corporation was able to maintain service through the snow storm that hit East Texas earlier this year.

“We’re growing and I’m not sure we could pull that off two times in a row,” he said.

The planned work will include adding generators at locations where the system currently doesn’t have any. That makes the system more resilient and reliable, Sherwood said.

One of the main projects is to install 12-inch water lines on the system’s east end that is currently served by 4- and 8-inch lines. A new, larger pump station will replace the aging one on FM 1252 and a water line from there to Texas 31, tunneling under Interstate 20, also is planned. The wastewater treatment plant on Texas 135, which was built in the early 1970s, will be expanded.

Stoudt said the work will open up new areas of development, for housing and other projects.

“That’s kind of the exciting part of this,” he said, adding he had talked to Kilgore city officials and they support the project.

This project, and additional work the Liberty City Water Supply Corp. plans in the future, will provide better interconnectivity possibilities among area water systems, providing “redundancy” and capacity for growth, Sherwood said.

“A lot of the growth that’s going to happen in the future is going to be in our service territory,” and the water supply corporation must ensure it has capacity to support it, Sherwood said.

“We’re just trying to do our little part. We really appreciate the judge and commissioners court agreeing to partner with us to help make this happen,” Sherwood said. “It will help everyone, the improvements that we make.”

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