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Progress continues on water expansion plans in Northampton County

JACKSON – The Northampton County Board of Commissioners approved a Letter of Conditions from the USDA at their meeting here on June 7. The approval is just another step towards securing funds for the planned water expansion project.

“There’s no question why I ran for Board of Commissioners. Water has been on my agenda for five years,” said Board Chair Charles Tyner, who was pleased to see progress being made on the project.

Plans for Phase 6, which will bring water service to unserved areas on 14 roads, have been underway for a few years now. But Tyner noted the COVID-19 pandemic has slowed down and delayed the process over the past year.

Rivers and Associates was contracted to prepare a preliminary engineering report, and work on that began in June 2019. The report was submitted in June 2020, along with information about well water contamination in the area. The commissioners received word that the report had been approved by USDA in Aug. 2020.

Over 200 households will be added to the county’s water system during Phase 6. Most of those roads are concentrated in the northeastern part of the county, but there are also two near Lake Gaston.

The list of roads to receive new or expanded water service during Phase 6 include Mandrake Court (Henrico), West Main Street (Murfreesboro), Stanley Drive (Henrico), Galatia Road (Pendleton), Barrett Cabin Road (Murfreesboro), Turkey Branch Road (Murfreesboro), Vaughan Creek Road (Pendleton), Horne Road & Whites Road (Pendleton), Big John Store Road (Pendleton), Pineridge Lane & Stanley Barnes Road (Pendleton), Willis Hare Road (Pendleton), and Boone’s Bridge Road (Pendleton).

According to the USDA Letter of Conditions, Northampton County could receive a Rural Utilities Service (RUS) loan up to $4,992,000. The county would contribute the tap fees, totaling $10,800, for a total proposed project cost of just over $5 million.

A budget breakdown of the project lists over $3.6 million of those funds would go to construction costs with another $608,000 for engineering fees.

The letter also stated that the loan will be scheduled for repayment over a 40-year period, with the first payment being due following the completion of the project.

“Is there an anticipated completion date,” asked Commissioner Geneva Faulkner.

Mark Garner, Vice President of Rivers and Associates who was also in attendance at the meeting, estimated the project would take 36 months to complete from this point.

Faulkner also asked whether the interest rate on the loan would be today’s current rate or whatever the rate is once the project is completed.

Jonathan Jones, a representative from USDA, explained that they would be able to use whichever rate is lower.

“This loan’s going to be paid by the people paying their water bill every month,” Tyner stated. “It is not a part of the tax we collect from individuals.”

“It’s basically a self-supporting loan,” Faulkner added, noting that money in the water/sewer enterprise fund can only be used for water/sewer projects, such as this.

Tyner did say that there would be a small water rate increase for users in the future, but said the change would be to address aging infrastructure repairs and maintenance. At a previous meeting, Tyner explained the county would go by USDA guidance to set the increase.

Commissioner Nicole Boone motioned to approve the USDA Letter of Conditions, and Commissioner Joyce Buffaloe seconded. The vote was unanimously in favor.

“Water is on its way,” Tyner concluded.