Grant applications move forward

GATESVILLE – Local officials here are moving forward in an effort to remove Gates County from a state distressed list due to issues with its public water and wastewater systems.

At a special called meeting on Sept. 7, the county’s Board of Commissioners approved three measures that will lead to the submission of applications for grant funding from the state.

It’s been a little over one month since county officials received a letter from the state designating Gates County’s water system as distressed. Immediately following that notification, a representative of North Carolina Rural Water advised county officials to seek a civil engineering firm to assist in the application process for available grants to help address water/wastewater problems. Applications are due by the end of this month.

The board of commissioners, at a special called meeting on Aug. 3, approved the hiring of Green Engineering of Wilson. That firm specializes in planning, design and construction management work in all types of wastewater treatment and disposal facilities, water treatment and distribution systems, industrial parks, shopping centers, airports, correctional facilities, government installations, county roads and interstate highways.

Leo Green attended last week’s special meeting and gave the board an update on the progress of submitting the grant applications.

“We’ve covered a lot of ground over the past three-plus weeks in getting material together to submit a grant application,” Green stated.

He said as part of that process, the commissioners need to approve two resolutions that authorize that application, and adopt a draft Capital Improvement Plan.

Green noted there are six projects he identified that should be included in the application package, starting with an asset and inventory assessment for water and sewer. That assessment includes a physical survey that locates every meter, every hydrant, and every valve. Those locations would be entered into a GIS database, as well as key information such as pipe size, pipe material, and age.

Part of the asset and inventory assessment of the water system includes a hydraulic analysis, which identifies pipe pressure.

The assessment will also include the county’s current operation of the Town of Gatesville’s water system. Green noted that the town’s water tank needs to be replaced.

An application will be submitted for needed improvements at the county’s old wastewater treatment site.

The fifth potential project is one that will replace all water meters over a period of several years. Those new meters will be read remotely, cutting down on the manpower needed to read them manually.

Green said the final project is to extend the public sewer system.

“These will be six separate applications instead of bunching all these together within a single application. That, we believe, gives them the best chance of getting funded,” Green said. “This is the ideal opportunity for you to receive 100 percent grant funding because of your designation as a distressed system.”

He added that even if one or more of the proposed projects are not funded, the county can submit the application(s) again during the next funding cycle.

Linda Hofler, vice chair of the board of commissioners, noted that the grant funding, if approved, is 100 percent from the coffers of the state’s share of the federal American Rescue Plan.

“That means the money isn’t coming out of the pockets of Gates County property owners,” she stressed. “This is very important that we get this done.”

“Even if you just get the asset and inventory assessment grant, you’ve got a working document to move forward with to identity future capital plans and future projects from which you can submit future applications for other pots of money,” Green noted.

Commissioner Jack Owens asked how much more information does Green Engineering need to complete the application?

“We’re probably 70 percent there,” he answered. “We need some more financial information, to include copies of past audits, so we can run the calculations that the applications require.”

The applications are due by Sept. 30.

“We will submit prior to the deadline,” Green promised.

It was noted that the cost of projects #2 through #6 is $4.66 million.

“This is a grant program, so what will be repaired or replaced will be based on the amount of funds we receive on each application,” Owens remarked.

With that, the commissioners, by unanimous vote, approved two resolutions: one authorizing a grant application for water and wastewater asset inventory and assessment and related studies, and infrastructure improvement projects; and the other authorizing a grant application for viable utility reserve funds pursuant to county designation as a distressed unit of local government.

Additionally the board approved a capital improvement plan for the county’s water and wastewater systems. That plan, which can be revised/updated, runs through Fiscal Year 2031-32 at a projected total cost of $11.21 million.

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