Vance County water project may expand

Jun. 25, 2014 @ 09:24 PM

A county commissioner stood his ground Wednesday against staff’s water project recommendation.

While members of the Vance County Board of Commissioners properties committee agreed to ask the full board’s permission to add 14 new roads to Phase 2 of the water project, Commissioner Dan Brummitt said he wanted to make sure the county could foot the bill.

During the meeting, Tim Carpenter of LKC Engineering shared an adjusted budget projection for five roads in Phase 2A and nine roads to Phase 2B — an added cost of $1 million.

Carpenter said the additions would bring about 93 new customer connections to get the county closer to its sign-up goal.

“We have built all the main roads,” he said. “They are looking at getting into the streets where the people are to get more sign-ups.”

Sign-ups make up about 60 percent of the county water system’s revenue sources in next year’s fiscal budget, which allocates about $500,000 to the projects.

On top of that is an ongoing water debt payment currently at $188,000 per year.

Brummitt said allowing residents on additional roads to sign up for county water could increase debt and restrict opportunities for cash flow.

“If we take real bad numbers and mix them with bad numbers, that still doesn’t give us good numbers,” he said.

Jordan McMillen, deputy county manager and planning director, said projected sign-ups have gone up 17 percent for Phase 2A and 27 percent for Phase 2B since construction started.

“It’s still not where we want to be,” he said.

McMillen agreed with Brummitt, who said the county is not where it supposed to be in Phase 1 sign-ups, either.

Some 547 customers have committed to use the water source in Phase 1. More than half actually do. The other half have not been paying the required $30 monthly fee to connect.

McMillen said more people are tapping into the water line, and sign-ups have increased by 50 people since road additions in Phase 1 started earlier this year.

Still, the goal was about 620 signups, and the county fell short by about 22.

Commissioner Archie Taylor said road additions in Phase 2 were a good leap of faith, considering the county would be able to use grant money soon.

Carpenter said Vance has already used most of the $6.1 million in loans, which is required before dipping into grant funds.

The county has received about $3.6 million in grants. Any money that is not used on the project will go back to the state after construction is complete.

“Money should be used to serve as many people as possible,” Taylor said. “We have an obligation to move the county forward. I think it is a risk, but it’s a good risk. The money is here today, and the money might not be here tomorrow. The opportunity is here today; it might not be here tomorrow.”

Brummitt said although no debt service will be added with new roads, water run-off problems have already started.

Carpenter urged the board to get approval to start design and permitting for the additional roads in Phase 2, which would take about three months to complete.

He said there would be more than his estimate of $40,000 in funds left over by the end of each project’s construction, even including the road additions.

Brummitt said he was committed to doing his research before going to the full board for a vote on the matter, which could happen as early as July.

Contact the writer at dhairston@hendersondispatch.com.