The Mayor's Report
May 4th 2017
Update On Sewer System Problems
As a result of the smoke test, which was performed on April 4, 2017, by the North Carolina Rural Water Association, were able to identify numerous locations along our sewer line, which contained holes, due to deterioration of the pipes. Our Public Works Department has been working diligently to patch those holes, in an effort to reduce and/or eliminate further overflow conditions.
Although there is still a lot of repairs that need to be completed, the efforts of our Public Works Crew has already made a positive impact. Prior to the commencement of the repair work, our system had overflowed with only .75 inches of rain water falling. In the weekend storm that hit our area a couple of weeks ago, we had received two inches of rain and the system had not overflowed.
Unfortunately, by the time the storm had ended, we had received almost five inches of rain and that was too much for the system to handle. Mr. Raymond Eaton, our Public Works Director had to notify the state that we had suffered an overflow of sewer spillage amounting to over 10,000 gallons.
We will continue to work on the repairs over the next few weeks. Once all of the identifiable leaks have been repaired, another smoke test will be ordered, to determine if there are any leaks remaining in our system.
Update on Asset Inventory Assessment Grant of $76,000
In January of this year, we received notification that the Town of Woodland was awarded a grant in the amount of $76,000 from the State Water Infrastructure Authority (SWIA), for the Asset Inventory Assessment (AIA) Project for the sewer system.
There is a 5% match and 1.5% grant fee. The grant fee has to be paid; however, the remaining portion of the match can be "in-kind" services through staff labor. According to Amy Simes, who administers the program, the 1.5% grant fee is a part of the 5% match. As such, the remaining 3.5% can be either paid in cash or documented with "in-kind" services.
Last month, the Town Board of Commissioners agreed to have the engineering firm, Rivers and Associates, represent the town's interest in this project. We are now awaiting information from Mr. Mark Garner, Vice President of Rivers and Associates to advise us of the next steps to be taken in the process for creating the AIA.
Update on Test Drill
As discussed at last month's Town Board Meeting, according to our contract with A.C. Shultes, which is the company assigned to perform the test drill work; it was agreed that expenses would be covered down to a depth of 360 feet. A.C. Shultes did find an aquifer at that depth, but according to geological studies, there is a larger aquifer, the Cape Fear Aquifer, at 420 feet.
Due to the excessive depth involved, the costs of the test drill project has increased by $18,740.00. The original contract price was $130,242,27. A new Change Order Form has been prepared and approved by the Town Board of Woodland and the Office of NC Water Infrastructure, Division of Environmental Quality. The new change order reflects the increased project fee of $148,982.27.
Mr. Blaine Humphrey, the Project Engineer overseeing drilling project, advised the Town Board that drilling for water is not a precise science and there is no way to know what you are going to find, or where you will find it, until you actually start drilling.
Water Rate Survey Conducted By NCRWA
During last month's meeting, the Town Board of Commissioners voted to request North Carolina Rural Water Association (NCRWA) to conduct a Water Rate Survey for the Town of Woodland. The survey will assist in determining whether or not we may need to increase our water and sewer fees. Since the Town of Woodland is a participating member of NCRWA, there is no fee.
The survey is expected to be completed on, or about the first week of June 2017.
All municipalities and county governments in the State of North Carolina were issued a notification package from NC Water Infrastructure, Division of Environmental Quality, advising of the need to ensure that they are “maintaining viable water and waste water utilities that safeguard public health, protect the environment, encourage economic development, and support vibrant communities.”
Included in the package was the 2017 Infrastructure Master Plan: Road to Viability. As part of the plan established by the state, our drinking water and waste water facilities must be financially managed through operation as a self-sufficient business enterprise. The Water Survey will assist the Town Board of Commissioners in determining our water rates and the costs involved in providing drinking water and waste water treatment to the citizens of Woodland.
Choanoke Area Development Association – History of Repair/Maintenance Work
Pursuant to the July 1, 2002, Lease Agreement between CADA and the Town of Woodland, which involves CADA's use of the building in which the Head Start Program is located; CADA is required to notify the town of any maintenance, or repair problems. As stated in Item 8 of the Lease Agreement, CADA “shall be responsible for all maintenance, and repairs to said premises up to the sum of $2,500.00. The cost of any repairs in excess of $2,500.00 shall be negotiable between the parties.”
It has come to my attention that over the years, CADA may have had a lot of repair work completed, but may not have alerted the Town of Woodland of the need for the repair work, or the costs involved. Compounding this issue is the fact that as a landlord, the Town of Woodland did not do a very good job of conducting on-site visits to ensure that the building was kept in good, operating condition.
At the recommendation of the Town Board, on May 1, 2017, a letter was submitted to CADA requesting that the organization provide a complete history of the maintenance/repair work that has been completed since the beginning of the lease agreement, or as far back as their records may reflect. It was also requested that the costs for each repair job be included. This information should be received by June 1, 2017.
On May 2, 2017, I met with Mr. Melvin Powers, Deputy Director of CADA regarding this matter. I advised Mr. Powers that the Town of Woodland is making this request in a good faith effort to serve as a better landlord in this lease agreement. We have also taken proactive steps in addressing any maintenance/repair issues by having our Public Works Director, Mr. Raymond Eaton, conduct quarterly on-site inspections of the building. As a landlord, the Town of Woodland needs to be responsible in making sure that we are upholding our part of the agreement. Mr. Powers expressed his appreciation of the intentions of the Town of Woodland and stated that they will start the process to research their records and provide the requested information to the town by the requested date.
On the evening of Friday, April 28, 2017, I had the opportunity to attend CADA's 55th Anniversary Banquet Dinner, at the Northampton County Wellness and Cultural Center, in Jackson. The event was well attended by a lot of state, county and local officials, as well as many organizations which partner with CADA. It was definitely a well planned event.
Downtown Associate Community (DAC) Program
At last month's Town of Board of Commissioners Meeting, I informed the board members that on March 28, 2016, I along with Bobby Mann and Jane Mann attended a workshop sponsored by the North Carolina Main Street and Rural Planning Center. Attendance at the workshop was required for any community that wished to apply for the program. Those communities interested in attending the session, would be seeking to become affiliated with the Center for Downtown Revitalization Services.
On April 19, 2017, I met with many of the owners of our downtown businesses, to discuss this issue with them and to get their thoughts regarding a downtown revitalization program. Some of the business owners expressed rather jaded thoughts regarding the town's ability to make progressive and positive change; however, some believed that any effort would be better than not taking any action at all.
Although the Downtown Associate Community Program has a proven, positive impact on investment and job creation, the program requires that each town provide a Downtown Program Budget; adopt a Resolution of Commitment to the NC Main Street & Rural Planning Center to participate in the program; and adopt a Resolution Designating the Coordinating Entity for the Local Downtown Associate Community Program.
Upon further review of these requirements, it became very clear that the Town of Woodland is not yet ready for such a venture. We have more important financial matters to address, such as the escalating costs of our test drill and the deteriorating waste water system. However, in an effort to keep our options open, I contacted Ms. Sherry Adams, Downtown Programming and Technical Assistance Coordinator, for the State Department of Commerce and advised her that the Town of Woodland could really use some of their agency's expertise in helping us to develop a Strategic Plan for Economic Development.
Playground Equipment and Recreation Funds
The Town Board voted to utilize money contained in a certificate of deposit account, which is scheduled to mature in July, to purchase soft material to place under and around the playground equipment, which was given to the Town of Woodland last winter. We are planning to have the playground equipment installed at the Recreation Field in the early part of July.
Certificate of Occupancy for Rental Property
I have noticed that some of the rental properties in town are switching occupants. In some instances, it appears the residences may not meet the Minimum Standards for Dwellings and Dwelling Units. There is one residence in particular, which is located on North Chestnut Street.
The Town Board will consider the requirement that the owner of any building obtain a Certificate of Occupancy (C/O), before being able to rent to another individual, or family. In order to obtain a C/O, the owner will be required to have the building inspected by the County Building Inspector. This way, we can be sure that these rental properties are meeting the minimum standards.