11/22/06 — Duplin starts new plans for county sewer system

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Duplin starts new plans for county sewer system

By Matthew Whittle
Published in News on November 22, 2006 1:45 PM

KENANSVILLE -- The Duplin County Board of Commissioners took another step this week toward implementing a countywide sewer system, selecting engineering firm McDavid Associates of Farmville to design the project.

"This is the initial step in evaluating the feasibility of a master sewer plan," county planning director Randall Tyndall said, emphasizing that it is a separate study from the one just completed on the Kenansville Bypass.

That one was looking specifically at running water and sewer to the seven intersections surrounding Kenansville where future economic development might be likely.

This new study is an effort to design a sewer system that could eventually serve every county resident, much like the county's current water infrastructure.

"We are very unique in Duplin County," Tyndall said. "We are fortunate in that the same engineering firm has designed our entire water system. We felt like the same engineering firm needed to design the entire sewer program, too."

Creating countywide sewer infrastructure, however, will be much more difficult.

"This will be a very slow process. In fact, 25 to 30 years would not be an unreasonable implementation of this plan," Tyndall said. "It will be a very expensive venture. The development of sewer is going to be dependent on where it is the most cost-efficient."

It's also going to be dependent on which customers can afford to pay the increased rates.

"Routinely, the minimum sewer rate for a household would be 50 additional dollars to the water bill, but if you have issues with your septic system, that's a good deal," he said.

Such qualifiers though, mean the first sewer lines will likely be run to the county's most densely populated pockets and to areas of potential industrial development.

For the county commissioners, it is the desire for improved economic development conditions that is pushing this plan.

"(The lack of sewer is) one of the things that hampers economic development today. It's very difficult to get a development, motel or any type of business that requires any type of sewer treatment," Tyndall said. "I would imagine once this planning process gets started there will be an assessment of what's out there -- what (wastewater treatment) capacities are available and which towns are willing to utilize that capacity. Then decisions will have to made whether to enhance those capacities or build a separate facility all together.

"It is our hope and anticipation that the development of this plan will identify pockets of growth and immediate feasibility. I anticipate a district-type plan."

But such decisions will be based on McDavid's design.

"There's all different kinds of ways to approach it. We need to find out what is a feasible avenue for this board and future boards. We've got to know where we are now. We've got to know where we want to go and we've got to know how we're going to get there," Tyndall said. "I think most important for Duplin County, we have to know how we're going to pay for it."

That funding question, though, is why commissioner Arliss Albertson voted against going forward with the project.

"I think it's the way to go, but in the view that I'll be obligating future boards, I'll have to vote against it," he said in one of his final decisions as county commissioner.

The measure passed by a four to one vote -- outgoing commissioner Larry Howard was absent for medical reasons.

But even completing this sewer master plan is contingent on outside funding.

Work on the plan will begin once the county secures a $40,000 grant, likely from the N.C. Clean Water Trust Fund sometime next year. An additional $10,000 from the county's coffers -- $7,500 from unused economic development dollars -- also will be used.