10/04/06 — County will explore future sewer expansion

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County will explore future sewer expansion

By Andrew Bell
Published in News on October 4, 2006 1:56 PM

An expanded sewer system, continued work on school facilities and a new detention center are among the goals Wayne County's Board of Commissioners are targeting for the future.

The commissioners continued work on the county's long-range planning Tuesday during the board's pre-meeting briefing session.

About once every three years, county officials create a list of Capital Improvement Plan goals, short-and long-term, which are evaluated annually. During that process, the commissioners can choose to change, add or remove any plans concerning infrastructure, land use and many other issues.

Some of the goals are general and are meant to be completed within the three-year timeframe, but others are more specific and have a tighter window -- two years.

County Manager Lee Smith said many of the goals the county had on its list this year have been completed. Wayne County has been a forerunner for improvements to U.S. 70 and 117, has begun developing a comprehensive land use plan, protected zoning around Seymour Johnson Air Force Base and worked toward completing a new county animal shelter.

But that doesn't mean there is not still work left to do, county officials said.

In addition to the expense of improving school facilities, Smith said the county finance department, along with the commissioners, must consider the possibility of expanding sewer services for residents -- and, more importantly, how all the projects will be funded.

"On the financial side, we have to look at not borrowing for everything. The goal is to pay as you go," he said.

Instead of financing projects for 20 years at a time, Smith said the county should work to build its reserves and then accomplish some capital projects on an annual basis. The commissioners have raised the county's fund balance to about 24 percent, which provides the county a better ability to borrow money, he added.

Commissioner Jack Best said the commissioners should consider making investments in sewer lines that will help accommodate future growth.

The sewer lines planned for the area near the new Wal-Mart site at the intersection of U.S. 70 and N.C. 581 should be built to accommodate not only the needs of that project, but for future residential and commercial development.

As sewer lines expand throughout the county, the commissioners can then discuss the possibility of interconnecting lines with municipalities and county sanitary districts, Smith said.

The goal is to provide sewer to all residents for the same price, Best said.

All of the county capital projects needed in the next 20 years, including new offices for the Department of Social Services and Services on Aging, a new detention center and school facilities and improvements, could cost as much as $600 million, Smith said.

Planning properly with the county's finance department and other organizations will prevent the county from doubling the property tax rate and driving residents to other areas, Best said.

The county will meet for half-day work sessions with board members, finance officers and consultants over the next four to six months to discuss water and sewer needs and how to fund capital projects, Smith said.

In other business, the commissioners approved another non-smoking area at the front entrance of the County Office Building facing Ash Street. The building holds offices for the county health department and the Department of Social Services. The other three entrances facing Herman, Lionel and Simmons streets are designated as non-smoking areas.

Best suggested county officials examine how much time county employees who smoke spend during their daily breaks. He added that since smoking is a health risk, those employees who smoke should pay a larger portion of their health insurance.