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George blazes a trail – First non-metro ever to receive BFI Funding

George Municipality has successfully applied for a Budget Facility for Infrastructure funding (“BFI”), the first non-metro municipality to ever receive such a grant in South Africa. The overall funding required for the project is R1.197 billion, to be formally gazetted, and which will be provided over the next forty (40) months for the full phases of the Potable Water Security and Remedial Works projects.

The BFI funding is allocated to George Municipality through the Regional Bulk Infrastructure Grant managed by the Department of Water and Sanitation. Acting Municipal Manager Dr Michele Gratz said that the impact of this funding will be immense for George and the 212 120 residents we service. “The Department of Water and Sanitation in a meeting noted that George Municipality is extremely privileged and a trailblazer being the first B-municipality to receive such a grant. Out of a total of 17 applicants which included government departments, George Local Municipality was the only approved application.”

The potable Water Security and Remedial Works projects include a new sludge treatment plant; new 20 Ml/d Water Treatment Works (“WTW”) Plant upgrade; refurbishment of the existing sludge discharge system; upgrade of Garden Route Dam outlet supply; new generator for Garden Route Dam pump station to ease supply of raw water during power failures; new 30Ml Balancing Dam and pipeline to New Water Treatment Plant; rehabilitation of Old water treatment works; replacement for Kaaimans River Pump station pumps; new Pacaltsdorp (West) Reservoir; new Pacaltsdorp (East) Reservoir, Tower and pump station; new Thembalethu (West) Reservoir and Pump station and a new Thembalethu (East) Reservoir, Tower and pump station.

Executive Mayor Leon van Wyk made the announcement of the successful application in the Ordinary Council of Friday 26th November during the tabling of the Adjustment Budget 2021/22. “We are grateful for the show of National Treasury’s faith in the municipality as a responsible recipient of grant allocation funds and are committed to provide services in line with the city’s ongoing needs as one of the fastest growing municipalities in the country.

“This is a major milestone project for the sustainability of our city that will stimulate housing and economic development that had to be halted in recent years as bulk water and sanitation infrastructure has reached capacity. The project will also eradicate the current sludge spillage in municipality’s river and dam water sources, in turn, improving the water quality of the municipality. Water security is a key component of the Medium-Term Strategic Framework 2019 – 2021 (MTSF) which calls for increased investment in water infrastructure funded by both the public and private sector. Water security is required to improve the quality and amount of investment to support growth and job creation.”

This project is aligned with the South African Economic Reconstruction and Recovery Plan specifically in relation to investment in infrastructure , employment creation and support of tourism recovery and growth by a) maintaining the planned level of investment in the public sector b) ensuring that local communities particularly historically marginalised communities are removed from the cycle of under-development and c) strengthening the production capacity of the economy.

“The Council of George can rightly be proud of the team of senior management and officials who put together this funding application at short notice and the subsequent approval is a testament to the skilled and innovative Civil Engineering Services planning staff we have in George, “ said Executive Mayor Leon Van Wyk.

The BFI funding will extend the water treatment capacity and will be implemented in two phases over three years (2022 – 2025): Phase 1 and 2 is an additional 20 Mℓ/day extension to the New George WTW and Phase 3 is an additional 30 Mℓ raw water balancing dam at the New George WTW.

The first allocation approved of the total amount of R1.197 billion, is R81.345 million and this amount was included in the 2021/22 Adjustments Budget tabled at the Ordinary Council of Friday 26th November.

The municipality has started the procurement processes for the development of major drinking water infrastructure projects in anticipation of national funding over the next few years.

The BFI was introduced in 2016 to cater for large strategic infrastructure projects. It is well-known that there is widespread concern about the state of water and waste-water infrastructure in South Africa and that significant amounts of funding will be required to rehabilitate this infrastructure within municipalities.

The George management team recognised that the capital expenditure required for this project would be significant and place enormous strain on the municipality’s financial resources. The initiative was taken to approach National Treasury to search for a solution. This approach culminated in the application being launched. In being awarded the BFI facility, George becomes the flag-bearer among non-metro municipalities to lead the restoration of water treatment as well as waste-water facilities in the country.