PILOT MOUNTAIN — The State Water Infrastructure Authority has approved more than $240 million in loans and grants for 127 projects statewide, all aimed at improving or replacing North Carolina water and wastewater infrastructure, according to a statement from North Carolina Department of Environmental Quality.
Pilot Mountain will get a chunk of that change and will be rewarded for a bit of chutzpah displayed by the board in August when they turned down a significantly smaller grant in hopes of landing a larger one.
Wastewater State Reserve (WWSR) project funding approved on Feb. 28 included grants to Pilot Mountain for the Sunset Drive sewer project. The town will receive grants totaling $1,264,392 for the project and a loan for the same amount. The earlier grant was only for $500,000.
“It was a little risky,” said Commissioner Evan Cockerham, “but we came away with a 50/50 balance of grants and loans this time.”
The earlier grant would only have covered about 20 percent of the estimated $2.5 million cost for the project, according to Town Manager Michael Boaz at the board’s August meeting.
“We have 19 sewer substations, but this is the one we have the most trouble with,” said Boaz. “Overflow from that station has caused a lot of problems, and continues to cause problems. Service will be improved. And since the work has to be done, a 50-percent grant is far better than having to pay 100 percent.”
Project funding was also approved from the Drinking Water State Reserve (DWSR) for a grant to the town of $1.95 million and a loan for the same amount. Those funds will be used either to upgrade the town’s municipal water system or to build an inter-connection system to purchase water from Mount Airy.
“The board began an inter-connection study a year and a half ago, and it’s nearing completion,” said Boaz. “When the board sees how that looks, they will decide whether to upgrade or build an inter-connection. The state knows we are considering both options, and they are comfortable with that since the costs are about the same.”
“The board will have to decide fairly quickly. The preliminary engineer’s report is due to the state in August, so they will need to award that contract pretty quickly, probably at Monday’s meeting.”
“Building an inter-connection and becoming a purchaser of water will impact Pilot Mountain for far longer than 20 years (the repayment term of the loan),” said Boaz. “The board will be making a decision that will affect the town for 50 years, as far as where water comes from. After you shut down a water plant and stop maintaining it, it becomes very hard to reopen it. They’re not taking this decision lightly.”
There will be no increase in taxes, according to Boaz. “The projects will be funded by water and sewer fees.”
Boaz could not guarantee there wouldn’t be a rate increase for sewer and water.
“I can’t say absolutely we will be able to pay back $3 million over the next 20 years with what we have.”
“The potential exists for a rate increase, but we will look at every possibility to mitigate that and make any increase as small as possible.”
Funding for this round 0f grants and loans was awarded through the Community Development Block Grant-Infrastructure program, the Drinking Water State Revolving Fund loan program, Drinking Water State Reserve program, Clean Water State Revolving Fund loan program, and the Wastewater State Reserve program, all administered through the Division of Water Infrastructure.