12/21/06 — County plan for utilities targeted

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County plan for utilities targeted

By Andrew Bell
Published in News on December 21, 2006 1:45 PM

Although members say countywide sewer service is not a feasible project, the Wayne County Utilities Committee discussed a master plan Wednesday morning that would address water, wastewater and other utility issues across the county.

An early draft of the master plan will evaluate the county and municipalities' utilities infrastructure, identify any problem areas and consider how to make capital improvements to the entire system while looking at ways to improve service across the county and between municipalities and water districts.

Discussion during the committee's Wednesday morning meeting focused on what projects the committee, which consists of municipalities, their departments and Wayne water districts, is currently working on and how those can be applied to a master utility plan.

Engineer Tyndall Lewis of McDavid and Associates told committee members he has been developing a long-range plan for Wayne Water Districts for the past 18 months. Although the plan, which is expected to be finished next summer, focuses on water and the county's future water supply, those findings will be important to a county master plan, Wayne County Manager Lee Smith said.

The draft of the master plan will examine the existing water system and how many people it serves as well as existing water supplies and the demand facing the county in coming years.

Town Manager Charles Brown said officials believe the growth in Mount Olive will affect the services the town can provide to its residents. To counter future demand, Brown said town officials are working on a long-range land use plan to focus on Mount Olive's growth.

The Wayne County Comprehensive Land Use Plan, which has been developed over the past year and should be completed by April, will also be instrumental in providing information useful for a utility master plan.

The plan considers 12 issues important to the growth of Wayne County including water and sewer services. Wayne Planning Director Connie Price said the land use committee has not completed its report, but it has already determined that county-wide sewer service is not feasible because of the costs and scope of the project.

But sewer and water services are feasible for expansion in areas of growth and expected growth, Price said.

For example, Wayne County Public Schools suggested a new middle school in the Grantham area as a part of the schools' $90 million facilities plan. That school, along with other residential developments in the area, will need proper sewer lines because the ground will only accept a certain amount of sewage through septic tanks, Southern Wayne Sanitary District representatives said.

Lewis said an 8-inch sewer line could transport about 150,000 gallons a day from Grantham to a Goldsboro sewage treatment plant. That line could support about 750 houses and a new Grantham middle school would be the equivalent of 50 to 75 houses.

But the area might better be served by installing a 12-inch sewer line along the eight miles between Grantham and Goldsboro, Lewis said. A 12-inch line could serve between 1,200 and 2,000 houses and only costs about a third more than an 8-inch line, which would be an estimated installation cost of $1.5 million.

Goldsboro City Manager Joe Huffman said the committee would also have to consider how much residents would have to pay and how much they would be willing to pay for sewer service.

But as services improve across the county, Lewis said customers will have to adjust.

"Some homeowners have to be willing to spend more on utilities than they did before," he said.

The idea for a county-wide master utilities plan began with the city of Goldsboro considering its own master utilities plan.

Huffman said City Council expressed interest in a plan that includes the next 20 years of they city's water, wastewater and sewer needs.

"We thought we could include the county with the city and look at this with a bigger view. This gives us a chance to look at development," he said.

But Huffman said it will be a strenuous task to complete the plan. He said the last time he worked with a city to create one, it took a year to collect the necessary data, to get all departments involved and to begin the project.

Smith said he hopes the committee can work out enough details before the county begins its budget process so the commission can allocate its share of the master plan's "request for proposal" by next July. Then, Smith said he would like the committee to help complete a master plan draft and to begin parts of the project by the summer of 2008.

But until the committee can determine how much a request for proposal will cost each entity, Smith and Brown suggested committee members pledge their support to the concept of the utility master plan.

"We'll need to get a resolution from the board in support of this. I believe the interest is there and it's going to be a necessity down the road," Brown said.

Once each member supports the plan in concept and the committee gathers more information for a request for proposal cost estimate, Smith said each entity can begin to focus on the initial costs of the project.