Northampton municipal leaders share ‘wishlists’

Published 5:35 pm Friday, August 12, 2022

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JACKSON – Water and sewer infrastructure was one of the biggest topics of discussion during a meeting between representatives from Northampton County’s municipalities and the Board of Commissioners.

Board Chair Charles Tyner explained that the special called meeting, held on Aug. 9, was necessary to gather more information about the needs of each town. He recently had a meeting with representatives from USDA Rural Development about looking for grant funds, and is planning to meet again soon to provide them with additional information.

“We’re on this boat together, and we’re riding on this boat as a team,” Tyner said, adding that they should attempt to receive federal funds during this unprecedented time while so much is available.

Each town had the opportunity to present three items on their “wishlist.” Many noted the need for infrastructure replacements or repairs.

Conway Mayor Lee Duke stated that their projects involved replacing piping at their wastewater spray fields, replacing water service lines within the town limits, and increasing capacity on a lift station that handles a large volume of sewer waste.

“We’re patching patches on our water service lines in town,” Duke said. “That stuff was put there when I was a little boy, and that’s been a minute.”

Woodland Mayor Randy Beale said the town was already working on some water/sewer infrastructure projects, but would like more assistance.

“The pipe is as old as Methuselah, all over town,” Beale said,

He noted that the old pipes aren’t able to handle pressure from newly replaced lift stations, which causes leaks around the town.

Marshall Lassiter, a Severn Town Commissioner who spoke on behalf of the mayor, also said they needed to replace several thousand feet of pipe which “has been in the ground more than 50 years.”

The town of Severn’s wishlist also included a water project which would make repairs to their water tank to ensure it remains at least 75 percent full.

Jackson Town Commissioner Jim Gossip said the first item on their list would be to install a new well. He explained that the town currently has one well, but they have to switch to county water when they need a backup water source. The problem is that doesn’t fill up the water tank when there’s a high demand on water, such as when the town’s cotton gin is running.

“I think it’s very important that we cure the lack of a reliable secondary water source,” Gossip stated.

Additionally, Gossip reported that the wastewater disposal system was in need of important upgrades.

“We’ve got an outdated system,” he continued. “It’s fragile, it lacks capacity, and we’re repairing it constantly.”

In addition to infrastructure requests, however, many projects on each town’s wishlist focused on improving the quality of life for their residents.

Lasker Mayor Dick Collier said their number one priority was to install a walking trail in town, so that citizens would not have to walk on state roads when they wanted to exercise.

Deborah James, Mayor of Gaston, said they’re working to purchase the old EMS building to turn it into a community center, and then they would turn the current community center into a space for senior citizens.

“We have a lot of seniors in Northampton County, on the western end of the county and in Gaston, so we want to do something for them,” she explained.

Rich Square Mayor Reginald White said they needed to continue revitalizing and maintaining the W.S. Creecy School facility, which could provide space for more events and recreation within the town.

Mayor Geraldine Langford of Seaboard stated they’d like to have funds to demolish the old school building located in the town park in order to be able to expand recreational offerings there. That would also include constructing a new multipurpose building in the park.

Other requests centered on cleaning up or clearing up dilapidated properties.

Rich Square Mayor White pointed to an unsafe building on Main Street which needed to be demolished. Mayor Collier in Lasker also requested assistance in demolishing the old bank building.

“It’s collapsing at the top, and the foundation is collapsing,” Collier said.

The towns of Seaboard, Severn, and Rich Square all mentioned pursuing foreclosures on abandoned and vacant properties too in order to enhance each town’s appearance.

Garysburg Mayor Roy Bell noted they had recently received funding for a health and wellness center project in town, but they’d like to do more to increase housing in the area.

NC House Representative Michael Wray was also in attendance at Tuesday night’s meeting. He explained that municipalities are able to submit applications through September for state funding to address water and sewer infrastructure issues.

He advised the towns to work with the local Council of Government and an engineering firm in order to have a detailed plan for the project ready when they submit the applications.

“The money is available, but you have to apply for it,” Wray said.

Following all the presentations, Tyner wrapped up the meeting, saying that the wishlists were a good start to making things better.

“If we can help you, please let us know,” he concluded.