04/07/09 — Mount Olive waits for word on funds

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Mount Olive waits for word on funds

By Steve Herring
Published in News on April 7, 2009 1:46 PM

The Clean Water Management Trust Fund board of directors will meet in special session Wednesday in hopes of rescuing the many projects left in limbo earlier this year when Gov. Beverly Perdue pulled $100 million from the fund.

"Our board is going to consider making it a priority for us to fund those projects that were awarded in 2008, but that we lacked the funds to do," said Phil Baddour Jr., of Goldsboro, CWMTF chairman.

A second priority, he said, would be to utilize CWMTF dollars to pay the loan portion for towns like Mount Olive that have applied for federal stimulus dollars.

The stimulus will be doled out as 50-50 loan/grant.

"Clean Water would pay their loan portion for them," Baddour said. "All of this is subject to us having the money."

Most of the board members are expected to participate by phone, Baddour said.

CWMTF has two potential funding sources.

The first is the $75 million in the governor's budget proposal. A second source could be if the governor has money left at the end of the year that could be returned to the agency.

"We feel good about it (priorities), but of course all of it is subject to us having money," he said. "There is a good probability the money will be available. "

Asked if funding is a certainty, Baddour replied, "No, because we don't have a budget yet. We don't have any money right now."

Baddour said the Senate's appropriations recommendations should be available within the next few days.

The state constitution requires that the governor's recommended budget and the budget enacted by the General Assembly be balanced and include two fiscal years beginning on July 1 of each odd-numbered year.

Meanwhile, Mount Olive is proceeding with its efforts to secure $717,000 in stimulus money to replace a like amount lost when the governor raided the CWMTF to help balance what could be a $3 billion state budget shortfall.

Since a municipality would have until the end of a project to repay the loan portion of any stimulus money there would be no "money crunch" if they (municipalities) know that they are getting it (CWMTF) funds, Baddour said.

Mount Olive had been in line to receive $717,000 from the CWMTF for a major overall of the town's aging sewer system.

Once the funding was lost, town officials began exploring other options and the CWMTF recommended the project as eligible for stimulus funding.

To enhance the town's chances of getting a slice of the stimulus, Town Manager Charles Brown was in Washington, N.C. last Friday to expedite project permitting.

Brown said he learned of the CWMTF proposal during a conference call last Wednesday with the agency.

"When they said they were able to work it out I was so happy that I didn't ask any questions," Brown said. "I was just so happy they worked out a way to get the money that I didn't asked any questions. We were very grateful or their help."

On Thursday, a call from Earth Tech, the town's consulting engineering firm, prompted the Friday trek to the Washington office of the N.C. Division of Water Quality.

By Friday afternoon the project was permitted -- something that Brown hopes will help move the town's project closer to the front of the funding line.

"Everything that you hear now about federal stimulus money is that you have got to have your project shovel ready," Brown said. "Well, that's as shovel ready as we can get it until we give a go-ahead to a contractor to begin work. We are permitted to do the work and all we have to do now is put it out to bids and put the contractor on the ground."

He added, "Nothing is guaranteed and after February we don't count any chickens until they hatch because there are so many things that could happen. But at least I can say that we are cautiously optimistic that when we get notice on the 17th (when the stimulus funding is to be announced) it will be good news.

"We are cautiously optimistic that we have done all that we can do to get that funding in place barring some unforeseen budget snafu at the state or federal level."