• 68°

Water Districts may expand

WINTON – The Hertford County Northern and Southern Rural Water Districts may be expanding.

Mike Bradley, the county’s Public Works Director, has received a green light from the County Commissioners to proceed with the process of selecting an engineering firm that will prepare a report which will determine the exact amount of funding needed for expansion of the rural water system.

Bradley informed the Commissioners at their recent meeting that he had met with the USDA, the funding agency used by the county decades ago to set-up the water districts, and was told that up to 45 percent grant funding was possible for Hertford County’s plans for expansion. The remainder of the money needed for the project would be offered by USDA by means of a low interest loan (the current rate is 2.75 percent).

He reminded the Commissioners that when the water districts were established in the mid 1990’s, not all rural areas of the county were covered.

“Those (uncovered) areas have increased in population since the original distribution lines were installed,” Bradley noted. “Extending these lines now to serve those growing areas of the county would also have the added benefit of providing looped segments within the distribution system that will improve the quality of water and reduce the amount of water lost due to flushing.”

Bradley said the areas he is recommending for expansion include Blowe Road, Country Lane, Collins Road, Vaughan Creek Road, and Pine Street and Tops Street. He added that the expansion needs to include another booster pump station to serve the Poortown area that will vastly improve the low water pressure issues there. Those issues, he said, are extremely noticeable during times of peak demand.

Bradley estimated it will cost a “little over one million dollars” to expand in the area as earlier noted as well as adding the booster pump in Poortown.

“We’re also looking at the water meters in both districts; they are fast approaching the end of their useful life and need to be replaced,” Bradley added. “With replacing those old meters with the new radio read meters, and the new meters in the expanded areas, I’m looking at an estimated cost of $772,000. Those radio read meters have the additional benefit of reducing the amount of man hours it takes to read the meters manually each month, and they greatly enhance our water leak detection program.”

Commissioner Curtis Freeman confirmed through Bradley that the cost to hire an engineer would be paid out of the water districts’ fund reserve. Bradley noted that if the project is approved for a USDA grant/loan, the money used for engineering services can be added to the project, thusly returning that money to the fund reserve.

“Once a grant or loan is approved, roughly 99 percent of the time the USDA will allow you to pay yourself back for any money a local government agency spends in the planning process of a project,” said Hertford County Manager Loria Williams. “However there is a risk….if we move forward with these plans, to include paying money up front for an engineering report, and the project, for some reason, goes away, then any money we expend up front is absorbed by the water districts.”

Freeman asked Bradley if he had contacted the residents in the areas where water service expansion may occur to see if they were interested in county water.

“We’ve done some preliminary contacts,” Bradley answered, “and have found much interest in all those areas we’re looking at.” But I know there’s a difference in them saying that and actually signing a contract.”

Freeman motioned for approval of Bradley’s request to select an engineer to prepare a report suitable for presentation to USDA. The motion was approved without objection from the five Commissioners.

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.

email author More by Cal