Water project approved

Published 10:45 am Monday, September 12, 2011

JACKSON — Phase V of Northampton County’s water improvements is moving ahead.

On Wednesday, the Northampton County Board of Commissioners agreed to file an application with the Local Government Commission (LGC) in order to push forward with the $5.84 million project. The water improvements will add 84 miles of water mains around the county to the existing system and serve approximately 331 potential new customers.

In a separate motion, the board also approved a professional services agreement with McKim & Creed, P.A. for engineering services with their estimated cost at $277,919.

The Phase V water improvements were approved by referendum in July 2004. The Untied States Department of Agriculture Rural Development has funded the project through a grant of $971,000 and a loan of $4.87 million.

The waterline improvements include areas west and south of Margarettsville, north of Jackson, north and east of Conway, northeast and south of Pendleton, east of Severn, off of Highway 258, east of Lasker, northwest of Rich Square, north of Creeksville, north of Vultare, north of Garysburg, the Jackson Bypass Road, east of Gumberry and south of Pleasant Grove Church Road. Two hundred and eighty-three customers have signed up for the project.

Phase V will also upgrade the water booster pumps located at the Hickory Hollow Station and the Squire School Station, which will increase water supply to Lake Gaston communities in order to avoid water shortages during high demand.

During his presentation to the commissioners, Public Works Director Billy Martin said because the USDA Rural Development funds were obligated in 2002 the deadline to use the money is rapidly approaching.

“USDA has informed the county that this project needs to move forward or request USDA to deobligate these funds,” he said.

Commissioner Robert Carter questioned County Manager Wayne Jenkins and Finance Officer Dot Vick about their concurrence with the project.

“Are we in position, financially, to move forward in the use of these (USDA) funds, even though I know that the use of these fund will come from users fees, no tax dollars are needed,” Carter asked.

Jenkins referred to the finance information paper Vick presented earlier in the meeting, which showed the county’s water enterprise fund profited $265,195.93 at the end of the last fiscal year. He spoke of the rate study that had been done recently as well as the rate adjustment that followed, which has placed the fund in the black.

“The 350 new customers will actually pay the debt service for the new debt,” he said. “I feel comfortable that if the county is ever going to expand the water system if we don’t do it now, we’ll never have another opportunity.”

Vick also shared her thoughts on the project. She said she was a little more conservative in her view and the LGC was going to look at the “whole picture,” including how much county money goes toward debt payment.

“But I feel like Local Government (Commission) will go ahead and approve it,” she said. “We won’t know until we get all the pieces.”

After further discussion, Commission Vice Chair James Hester moved to approve the Public Works Department to proceed with construction of the Phase V water improvement project and to file an application with the LGC.

Carter offered a second and the motion was passed without objection.

Commissioners Virginia Spruill and Chester Deloatch were absent from the meeting.