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Water system expansion moves forward

JACKSON – The Northampton Board of Commissioners took steps to move forward with water system projects during their regular meeting here June 17.

Interim County Manager Robert Murphy presented two separate agreements from Rivers & Associates, the first of which gave the company permission to do some preliminary work in order to move forward with the Phase Six water expansion project.

As previously reported by the News-Herald, expansion of the county’s water system to underserved areas is one part of the Board of Commissioners’ strategic plan for improvements in the next few years. Many of the roads selected for the expansion are located in the eastern part of Northampton County around the Severn and Pendleton areas.

Rivers & Associates was selected to help advance that project forward by completing preliminary work required in order to receive USDA grant funding.

Rivers representative Fred Stowe, who is serving as a project manager, explained the four areas outlined in the agreement.

The company would be tasked with performing a preliminary engineering report at a cost of $22,000 to compile necessary details about the proposed project. They would also complete an environmental assessment at a cost of $12,000 to determine what impacts the project may have on the target areas. A hydraulic analysis and report for $10,000 as well as assistance in preparing the USDA application document for a fee of $5,000 were also included in the agreement.

The total cost would be $49,000.

“I want to make sure everybody understands that [amount] is coming out of our water enterprise fund, not from your tax dollars,” emphasized Board Chairman Charles Tyner, who has been pushing this expansion project to move forward for more than a year.

“I want everyone to understand we are behind on this,” he continued, speaking about the project’s timeline.

At last month’s meeting, Public Works Director Kirk Rogers said the county was waiting to hear if they’d received a USDA “SEARCH” grant which would help cover the cost of the project’s preliminary work. Tyner stated at Monday’s meeting, however, that they found out the county was not awarded the grant.

Nevertheless, Tyner said they would continue with the project and look for additional avenues of funding.

Commissioner Nicole Boone noted Rivers and Associates had provided an estimated timeframe of six months to complete the preliminary project work, but it may take up to a year for USDA to respond to the county’s application.

Commissioners Geneva Faulkner and Kelvin Edwards motioned and seconded to approve the engineering agreement with Rivers and Associates. The vote was unanimously in favor.

The second agreement presented to the Board was to also allow the company to carry out the work for an Asset Inventory of the county’s entire water system. The Board of Commissioners accepted a $150,000 grant from the NC Department of Environmental Quality earlier this month to complete the assessment.

In addition to the grant, the county only needed to provide an extra $5,250, which would also be drawn from the Water Enterprise Fund, to cover Rivers’ full fee for the work.

Rivers Vice President Mark Garner, who was also present at Monday’s meeting, explained how the asset inventory would benefit the county. They would be able to compile a database to map out the existing water system, create a capital improvements plan, and bring all the information together in one water asset management plan document.

He added this asset inventory project would be happening concurrently with their work on the Phase Six expansion project.

The vote to approve this agreement was again unanimously in favor after Faulkner motioned to approve and Edwards seconded.

“We appreciate the opportunity to be back working with you again,” Garner said at the conclusion of the presentations.