12/07/10 — Mount Olive will hike rate to pay for upgrades

View Archive

Mount Olive will hike rate to pay for upgrades

By Catharin Shepard
Published in News on December 7, 2010 1:46 PM

MOUNT OLIVE -- Mount Olive will seek $729,000 in revenue bonds to pay for its portion of a $2.2 million sewer improvement project aimed at revamping the aging and problematic system.

The Mount Olive Board of Commissioners voted unanimously Monday to approve the bonds, adding about $32,000 a year to the town's debt service.

The bond request will likely go before the Local Government Commission in January, Town Manager Charles Brown said. The town will have 40 years to pay off the debt. In total, the payoff will amount to about $1.2 million.

The project will likely mean a sewer rate increase of about $1 to $1.50 for the average Mount Olive household, or a $12-18 increase per year, Brown calculated.

If the town waits to move forward with the project, there will be even more sewer system problems down the road, Mayor Ray McDonald said.

"Our infrastructure is getting to the point, we're getting to good shape, and I hate to stop now and let it get back into the shape it was," he said.

Before calling for the vote, McDonald emphasized to the board members that approving the revenue bonds would mean having to find a way to pay back the money, one way or another.

"If we approve this tonight, then we've got to be in a position to do something about the sewer rates. There isn't any way to pay for it but that, either that or we got to raise taxes. We've got to be willing as a board to do whatever it takes to raise that $32,000," McDonald said.

The town has spent about $344,000 on various emergency sewer repairs and other sewer costs, but could recoup at least some of that money, the town manager said.

The Phase IV improvements are "the last big on the sewer. The next thing we've got to look at is on the water system," Brown said.

The rest of the project funding will come from a roughly $1.5 million grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the Clean Water Management Act. The town must provide its share of the funding in order to receive any of the grant funding, the manager said.

The work, known as the town's Phase IV sewer improvement project, could possibly get underway next year if the funding is approved. The project will install pump stations, replace manhole covers and potentially save the town money in the long run, officials said.

At present, the town's leaky system takes in more than just wastewater from households. Runoff enters the system and must also be treated using the expensive chemicals, but the sewer project should reduce that issue, officials reported.

The sewer rate increase represents about a 3 percent to 5 percent increase on household sewer bills, Brown said. The sewer rate increase is already built into the draft budget prepared by the town, he added.

The town board also received information about the condition of Mount Olive's streets from Special Projects Director Maylon Weeks.

Weeks presented each of the commissioners with a map of the town's streets. Each street is classified on a scale of one to five, with one meaning the street is in good condition, and five meaning it is in bad condition.

"Although our scale goes to five, there's a couple sixes on here," Brown said.

Weeks asked the board to examine the data about the street conditions and return at the January meeting to discuss which streets should be resurfaced with the Powell Aid money. It costs about $7.50 per square yard to perform the repairs, Weeks reported.

In other business, the board also took the following actions:

*Set the next meeting date for Jan. 4, due to January 3 being a town holiday.

*Allowing the sale of the old Cletus Brock house, a surplus piece of property. The town and county share the ownership of the property and will split the approximately $21,106 from the sale.

*Declared about 17 older police radios and one town vehicle as surplus. The items will be sold on web site GovDeals.org.