08/17/11 — Mount Olive still working on water improvements

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Mount Olive still working on water improvements

By Steve Herring
Published in News on August 17, 2011 1:46 PM

MOUNT OLIVE -- A feasibility study of planned improvements to the town of Mount Olive's water system on Northeast Church Road has been submitted to the state and the town has been granted authorization to construct the project.

The holdup now is how much of $2.2 million from the Clean Water State Revolving Fund will be grant and how much will be loan.

The town was first told that $1.1 million would be "principal forgiveness" -- a grant. That, however, has changed.

"We have been notified since that we will get an additional amount of principal forgiveness," said Town Manager Charles Brown. "We do not know at this point in time how much that is going to be. We have contacted them again to find out what that number is because we'll have a funding gap to fill between whatever additional allotment they give us and the $2.2 million."

The town will have to find funding sources that would help fill that gap, but cannot do that until it finds out how much that gap will be, Brown said.

This month was the state's timeline to get everything lined up, he said.

"We are about halfway through the month and it has been about a week since we asked them if they could give us some idea of what we are talking about," he said. "Until we know that there is not much more that we can do on it.

"Initially our entire emphasis on that project was to double our filtration capacity out there and replace some of the valves in the supply lines between there and Mt. Olive Pickle Co. that is the primary (water) source for Mt. Olive Pickle Co. We have had some issues in the past with iron content in that water and that is an issue for Mt. Olive Pickle Co. because it is a taste issue with their product."

The town has since started supplying more of the water for the plant from another well.

"So the initial effort was to find funding just to do that part (filtration) of it and in that case it would have been substantially less expensive," Brown said. "We couldn't secure funding for that we would have had to come up with job creation figures that would have allowed us to fund it."

However, some jobs at the pickle plant are seasonal and would not have met the qualifications for funding from the state Department of Commerce or the Rural Center, he said.

Because of that, the town began looking at the Clean Water State Revolving Fund, but in order to get funding from that source, the project had to include a residential element.

"In other words we needed to replace supply lines that need to be badly done anyway," he said. "We have supply lines that have been in the ground since 1912. We have old water meters that have slowed down and are not functioning as they should."

The county paid half of the $60,000 for the water study and has indicated an interest in helping with the project, too. However, it has made no commitment to do so.

Some of the interest in the project was stirred because a company that produces ethanol had expressed an interest in the area around the town's industrial park on the Old Mount Olive Highway not far from the well where improvements would be made.

"We are going to talk to everybody," Brown said. "Anybody that we think is a remote possibility to partner with us and help with that we are going to go to talk to them. There is no guarantees we will get anything. I want everybody to understand, it is certainly important to bring new businesses in Wayne County, but I think that it is important that we remember companies like Mt. Olive Pickle Co. that have been here for years.

"They have contributed to Mount Olive. They have contributed to Wayne County over those years and I think that it is important that we remember their needs, too, as we move forward."