County to Join Study on Wagram Utilities
The Moore County Board of Commissioners waded cautiously into the regional water system concept Monday.
On a motion by Commissioner Nick Picerno, the board agreed to join other communities in seeking a grant to study the potential of water and wastewater treatment facilities in Scotland County.
However, the motion included the provision that Moore County is under no financial obligation to pursue the grant. And, in a second motion by Picerno, the board agreed to place the matter on the March 15 meeting agenda for a more formal discussion and possible additional action.
"It puts us under no obligation to apply for a study grant," Picerno said after the meeting.
The proposed study of the two facilities is an outgrowth of recent meetings involving Moore County officials, Scotland County and Laurinburg leaders and Hoke and Robeson county officials. State Rep. Jamie Boles initiated the meetings of regional officials, including legislators.
County Manager Cary McSwain brought up the subject during his report to the board near the end of the regular Monday meeting. A study would determine the potential use and expansion of the existing water and sewer facilities originally built to serve a huge textile plant located on the Lumber River near Wagram in Scotland County. WestPoint Pepperell now uses the textile plant, but the utilities are owned by another private entity and are available for sale.
The village of Pinehurst last year offered to buy the utilities to supplement the system operated by Moore County. The sale was delayed when the Scotland County Board of Commissioners sought a study of the facilities before agreeing to the sale.
Under state law, any sale of utilities to an out-of-county entity requires approval by the host county board.
One likely source of funding for the study is BRAC, the Base Realignment and Closure Commission that is coordinating expansion of Fort Bragg as it affects several surrounding counties.
In other business relating to utilities, Commissioner Larry Caddell gave an update on work under way to secure a grant extension to move forward on the Vass sewer plant upgrade.
Caddell said he and Public Works Director Dennis Brobst met with the N.C. Rural Center representative, whom they found "very receptive" to their request for an extension.
McSwain added that the Rural Center representative seemed "impressed with what the county had done" toward improving the wastewater treatment situation in Vass.
The town, whose water and sewer systems are owned and operated by the county, has asked the county to expedite efforts to enlarge or replace its overburdened sewer facilities. Vass leaders report that they cannot support new development until the sewer system is upgraded.
The town secured a $1 million grant from the Rural Center but is in danger of forfeiting the grant because time is running out on the project. In the meantime, the county applied to the Clean Water Management Trust Fund for a $2.7 million grant but lost out when the state raided the trust fund to help balance the state's precarious budget. The county is looking to other sources for grant money but needs the Rural Center extension to hold on to the original $1 million grant.
"We wanted to make sure they knew we were serious about it," Caddell said of the meeting with Vass officials and the Rural Center representative. "This will give us time to do it right."
Caddell said he is hopeful that once grant money is available, the construction market will still be competitive and produce good bids.
Contact Florence Gilkeson at (910) 693-2479 or by e-mail at email@example.com.
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