11/20/05 — Committee considers mapping area systems

View Archive

Committee considers mapping area systems

By Andrew Bell
Published in News on November 20, 2005 2:08 AM

Municipalities and sanitary district officials from across Wayne County met last week and formed a committee to study ways they could help one another.

Held at the B&G Grill on Ash Street, the first meeting of the Wayne County Utilities Committee brought officials together to talk about mapping, water consumption and the possibility of sharing some assets.

The increasing shortage of grant money for public utility providers was one of the factors officials said led to the decision to unite. Another was the increased amount of paperwork required to get state and federal assistance.

Wayne County Manager Lee Smith said forming a unit from the different organizations and government entities could benefit the county as a whole.

"When we get together, we need to talk about other resources available to solve the problems as a group," Smith said. "As a group, we could get more federal funds. The government looks at jointness in communities."

Many of the municipalities and districts already have water lines that intersect. Increased cooperation might be required, said some members, citing the recent drought that has water officials across the state concerned.

Among the issues discussed was the possibility of creating a county map of water and sewer lines and fixtures. Such a map would benefit local government agencies and businesses, officials said.

Smith said having a map of all the county's utilities would benefit developers considering locating here.

"We lose clients in Wayne County by not having our amenities available," Smith said. "Industries would just believe we don't have them."

Workers for a utility company could also benefit from resources that are electronically mapped, said Tyndall Lewis, an engineer who represented Wayne Water Districts at the meeting. For example, when a valve needs to be shut off, instead of having a worker return to the office to find the location of the valve, he or she could receive the exact location from a person with access to the map, Lewis said.

Police officers could also benefit from mapped systems. Hypothetically, if an officer needed the location of a broken fire hydrant or water valve, the officer would have the information in his or her patrol vehicle to become more efficient in the field, Smith said.

Pikeville Town Manager Lonnie Graves said he is concerned that making the information more accessible could also increase the chance of someone illegally gaining access to and disrupting the system.

"Maybe I'm the Chicken Little here, but, with our infrastructure available, I'm worried about terrorists having access to that information," Graves said.

Goldsboro Public Utilities director Karen Brashear said crucial components of the system, such as the routes of water and sewage lines at Seymour Johnson Air Force Base would be kept secret.

Smith reminded the committee that such a map would have to be kept up to date to justify the expense of creating it. Otherwise, he said, the group would be wasting its time and money.

"You can look at the counties that have done this, and some of their maps haven't been updated since 1994," Smith said. "What's the point of incorporating it if you're not going to update it?"

Committee members agreed that development in the county will require innovative solutions as problems associated with growth occur.

Walnut Creek Administra-tor Lou Cook said half of the residents of the village use septic tanks. A sewer system hook-up will eventually be needed, he said.

As lake and river levels throughout the state continue to decrease, officials throughout the county will need to combine resources for conservation efforts, Mrs. Brashear said.

Committee members agreed to meet bimonthly, with the next meeting scheduled for January.