The third time is the charm; persistence pays off; if at first you don’t succeed, try, try again.
All those sayings could apply to Mount Airy’s receiving of nearly $2.7 million in grant and loan funding for much-needed utility work.
This occurred after two unsuccessful grant applications in 2015 and 2016 to replace aging water and sewer lines in an older local neighborhood. Undeterred, city staffers submitted another application last year targeting the Maple Street-Merritt Street area located just north of West Independence Boulevard.
This led to an announcement this week from Raleigh that the State Water Infrastructure Authority has approved funding for the water and sewer needs there. The project area also includes Pippen and Porter streets and pipes behind houses on Willow Street.
“This is great news for the city and great news for the neighborhood,” said Martin Collins, Mount Airy’s community development director, who was involved in the grant submission process along with municipal finance and public works personnel.
Kevin Heath, an engineering consultant who has assisted the municipality with various projects, also played a key role, according to Collins.
“That’s one the folks here at the city have been working on for three years,” he added Wednesday afternoon of ongoing efforts to secure Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) and other funding.
“It was a lot of hard work and I think most of us never knew if we would ever have a successful grant application,” Collins said. “And finally, it looks like it’s paid off for the city.”
Based on a breakdown from the N.C. Department of Environmental Quality, Mount Airy was awarded $1,731,600 in Community Development Block Grant infrastructure funding for sewer improvements in the Maple/Merritt Street area.
The city was tapped for another $963,100 in low-interest loan funding from the Drinking Water State Reserve (DWSR) program for water system improvements there.
That basically will meet the total estimated cost of the water-sewer line rehabilitation of $2.7 million, according to figures from last August.
The project will include the installation of 7,700 linear feet of 8-inch sewer lines and 6,200 linear feet of 6-inch water lines.
Collins said the utility upgrade planned in the vicinity of Maple and Merritt streets will be the largest public water and sewer project in the city since work undertaken about 10 years ago to bring those systems to annexed areas.
The problems in the target community, which is nearly 100-percent residential in nature, are well documented.
“It is some of the oldest and most-troublesome infrastructure that the city has,” Collins has said. The sewer needs have loomed as the largest priority, as evidenced by line breaks and backups into homes. Most of the lines are made of terra-cotta, a clay-based material, and are more than 60 years old.
After two failed attempts with the grant applications, Mount Airy took a different strategy for the most recent one last fall.
It involved separating, for fund-seeking purposes, the sewer component from the water line replacement, which is viewed as less critical.
Combining the two previously had resulted in the city being denied for funding under a scoring system used in a process to determine the greatest needs, which involved the city’s overall score being reduced because of the lesser-needed water improvements. The separation strategy worked.
“The sewer part of it scored third in the state,” Collins said.
Collectively, funding for the latest round of grant and loan awards to Mount Airy and other localities around the state is provided through the Community Development Block Grant-Infrastructure (CDBG-I) program, Drinking Water State Revolving Fund loan program, Drinking Water State Reserve program, Clean Water State Revolving Fund loan program and Wastewater State Reserve program.
All are administered through the Division of Water Infrastructure.
In all, more than $240 million in loans and grants was approved for 127 projects statewide, all aimed at improving or replacing North Carolina’s water and wastewater infrastructure.
Collins says Mount Airy is happy to receive its share.
“It’s pretty exciting.”
Tom Joyce may be reached at 336-415-4693 or on Twitter @Me_Reporter.