Wastewater construction bids solicited

Published 9:08 am Thursday, December 1, 2011

GATESVILLE – After months of planning and years of anticipation, a major component of economic development in Gates County is inching closer to reality.

By a unanimous decision the Gates County Board of Commissioners voted last week to move forward with seeking construction bids as well as approving county money for expansion to its wastewater treatment facility located on US 158 near Gates County High School.

The vote came after the board heard updates on the project.

Gus Simmons of Cavanaugh & Associates, the engineering firm under contract by the county to provide plans on how to proceed with these infrastructure improvements, informed the commissioners that the project is ready to solicit construction bids for the first phase of the gravity sewer collection and the main pump station to serve the area along US 158. All the necessary permits and entitlements are in place to proceed with construction.

“I’m very pleased to report to you that this project has progressed on schedule,” Simmons said. “The next phase of the project, to include the construction of a new wastewater treatment plant facility, is currently under permit review. We project having all the permits and entitlements for that part of project in place by next summer.”

Simmons asked for the county to immediately begin advertising the bidding process for phase one.

Commissioner Henry Jordan asked if all the repairs are complete to the existing wastewater system, to which Simmons said they were to the best of his knowledge.

County Manager Toby Chappell said that phase one was basically laying the new sewer lines that will feed to the wastewater treatment facility.

Jordan motioned for Cavanaugh & Associates to proceed with the bid process for the first phase of the project. That motion was approved without objection.

Mike Scott, hired by the county to seek grants for the wastewater project, gave an update on that continuing effort. Scott said, to date, the county has received $900,000 from the (US) Economic Development Administration and $700,000 from the North Carolina Rural Center.

Additionally, the county has applied for a $200,000 grant from the Golden Leaf Foundation. Scott said Golden Leaf recently performed a site review and the county received a favorable response from that review. He added the Golden Leaf Board of Directors is scheduled to meet the first week of December and it’s hopeful that Gates County will receive the grant shortly thereafter.

He added that the county is currently working on a Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) for economic development in the amount of $350,000. A review period is underway for that grant. It will be late February to early March before the county is notified of the status of that possible grant.

To date, the county has received and/or applied for $2.1 million towards funding the project.

Scott said another granting source is the Industrial Development Commission. The county has not yet filed a grant application to that entity.

“According to the figures I had a few months ago, this (total of grants received and/or under consideration) added up to $83,000 above the cost of this project,” said Commissioner John Hora. “When I add this up now we’re short $145,000.”

“The way the project is shaping up right now it’s at $2.8 million,” Scott said.

“So the exposure to the county taxpayers will be right at $300,000,” Hora noted.

“Probably no more than that,” Scott said.

“So we’ve gone from a plus 80 ($80,000) to a negative 300 ($300,000),” Hora asked.

“I’m really not following that, I don’t have the numbers that you have,” Scott admitted.

“Part of that could be the change in Golden Leaf (grant request, originally at $350,000),” said Commissioner Jack Owens.

“My question all along was the exposure to our taxpayers,” Hora stressed. “I understand the cash flow situation where at least two of these granting agencies will pay us back once we expend the money.”

“From day one of this project we were at $300,000 of county money,” Commission Chairman Graham Twine said.

“I do know that the county has money in this project, you were required to do so at least with the Rural Center grant,” Scott noted. “Also keep in mind that the numbers we’re dealing with are estimated numbers that we made early on in this project.”

“I’d like to commend Mike for the job he has done in pursuing these grants,” Commissioner Henry Jordan said. “The investment the county is making in comparison with the gross amount we are getting is significant. It’s a good investment.”

As part of the update on the wastewater treatment plant project, Sandy Pittman, the county’s Finance Officer, presented a request for a budget amendment to transfer $377,450 from fund balance appropriated ($188,725 each from the General Fund and the Water/Sewer Fund) to the wastewater facility fund to cover expenditures.

“Why are we doing this budget amendment tonight,” Hora asked.

“It’s my understanding that we’re voting on this budget amendment to allow the county to spend the money in going forward, but by spending our money first, which is required by the grant, it allows us to submit a voucher for the amount we’ve spent,” Jordan remarked. “We move this money, then we go to the Rural Center to backfill the money we’ve spent.”

“The Rural Center requires that 90 percent of the grant funds are expended and 100 percent of local funds be expended before we ask for their funds, it’s kind of a complex formula to manage the dollars as your dollars are incurred,” Scott said. “There are some cases where the county has an expense that the Rural Center will fill as long as you’ve met your local commitment.”

“We have to have this money budgeted just in case we need to move it,” Pittman noted. “By law I have to show a balanced budget on this project.”

Commissioner Jack Owens motioned for approval of the budget amendment as well as the capital project ordinance for $2,527,450 – of which the majority is coming from granting agencies. Jordan offered a second and the motion was approved without objection.

About Cal Bryant

Cal Bryant, a 40-year veteran of the newspaper industry, serves as the Editor at Roanoke-Chowan Publications, publishers of the Roanoke-Chowan News-Herald, Gates County Index, and Front Porch Living magazine.

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