April 6, 2017
Update On Sewer System Problems
In March, North Carolina Environmental Quality Water Resources imposed a civil penalty against the Town of Woodland, in the amount of $2,531.76. The penalty was imposed due to overflow conditions that our sewer system suffered on three separate dates in September 2016.
In an effort to address some of the inflow and infiltration problems that our system is experiencing due to rain water, we have invited North Carolina Rural Water Association to come and conduct a smoke test. This test was conducted on April 4, 2017. The smoke test revealed numerous locations along our sewer line, which contained holes, due to deterioration of the pipes. Our Public Works Department will be working on patching those holes, in an effort to reduce and/or eliminate further overflow conditions.
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 Project for the sewer system.
Letters of Intent to Fund were anticipated to be issued in early February. Mark Garner of Rivers and Associates, recommended that we send out Request for Qualifications (RFQ) to engineering firms that may be interested in working on this project. RFQ packages were sent out to several engineering firms. Responses were to be received at Town Hall by 4:00 pm, on March 30, 2017. Rivers and Associates was the only engineering firm that submitted a Statement of Qualifications.
We are now awaiting information from Mr. Garner with regards to the next step in the process for creating the AIA.
Update on Test Drill
Drilling commenced in mid-March for the test drill project on Linden Avenue. On Monday, March 27, 2017, town officials (including the mayor, town clerk and the public works director), met with Blaine Humphrey of Rivers and Associates to discuss the progress of A.C. Shultes, which is the company assigned to perform the work. According to the contract, 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 may increase by as much as $20,000. Mr. Humphrey stated that drilling for water is no 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. He also reiterated what was said at our Pre Construction Conference (2/15/17), that the costs can exceed the amount of the loan by no more than 10 percent, in order to still receive a zero percent interest on the loan. In dollar figures, the entire project (test drill and permanent well) cannot exceed $60,000 above the total loan amount. A.C. Shultes had made a bid of $130,242 for the project. It appears that the town will incur an additional $20,000 above that price, due to the additional depth which is required and the process for the water testing.
As a result of the changes in the contract, a Change Order Form must be submitted to NC Water Infrastructure, Division of Environmental Quality for approval.
Financial Sustainability For Water Utilities
We recently received correspondence from NC Water Infrastructure, Division of Environmental Quality, advising all municipalities and county governments 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.
The State of North Carolina has identified three integrated focus areas to ensure viable systems:
Infrastructure management through proactive measures that consider risk and life-cycle costs and enable utilities to provide reliable water service now and in the future.
Organizational management through resources and tools that are already available, many at no cost, to create a culture that places value on addressing infrastructure challenges in a comprehensive and realistic way.
Financial management through operation as a self-sufficient business enterprise for the long term.
I am glad to say that we have discussed our concerns with regards to our water and waste water issues in the Town of Woodland and we are moving in the right direction.
Water Rate Survey Conducted By NCRWA
On March 15, 2017, I met with Ms. Becky Turner of North Carolina Rural Water Association (NCRWA). During our conversation, we discussed the need for the town's water and waste water operations to be viable entities that operate in a self-sufficient manner. I advised Ms. Turner of our recent grant for the Asset Inventory Assessment Project and information we received regarding the state's desire to have all utility entities operating properly.
Ms. Turner suggested that we have the NCRWA conduct a Water Rate Survey, to assist the town in determining whether or not we may need to increase our water and sewer fees. She said that because the Town of Woodland is a participating member of NCRWA, there is no fee. She said they would just need to be given two months notice of when we would like to have the survey completed, so that they can make arrangements with their personnel.
During our meeting last year between Town Board Members and officials of Rivers Associates, we discussed concerns regarding the town's water and sewer fees and the fact that those rates have not been raised in seven years. Although we all understand the need to keep our prices down, especially considering the financial challenges that many of our citizens face, we do have to be realistic and financially responsible. Prices for the chemicals to treat our water has gone up; electric bills for the water pumps at our various stations have gone up; and as a result, it may be necessary for our fees to have increase as well.
I would respectfully recommend that the Board of Commissioners order that a Water Rate Survey be conducted by NCRWA, so that we can better assess our utility systems. We could hopefully have the survey completed prior to the adoption of our new fiscal year budget.
Board of Elections – Question About Early Voting
A few weeks ago, Ms. Susie Squire, Director of the Northampton County Board of Elections called and asked if the Town of Woodland would be interested in providing early voting to its citizens in the election in November. She said that 17 days of early voting would cost between $500 to $600. She further stated that the cost for the election, without early voting will cost over $1,600. I advised Ms. Squire that I will present her inquiry to the Board for a decision.
Choanoke Area Development Association – 3 Items
Ms. Sallie Surface, Executive Director of CADA is requesting that the Town of Woodland to reduce the water and sewer fee at Woodland Olney Senior Apartments. According to information provided by CADA, once the renovations are complete, all of the apartments will contain Water Sense Plumbing Fixtures, which will use less than ½ of the maximum limit of 90,000 gallons for the current fixed fee of $21.00 per unit for drinking water and $21.00 per unit for sewer water. We will need to discuss this matter in further detail.
CADA will be celebrating 55 years of service and will be sponsoring a Fundraising Banquet on Friday, April 28, 2017, at 5:30 pm. The event will be held at Northampton County Cultural and Wellness Center in Jackson, NC. Tickets are $30 for individuals, or you can reserve a table for 8 for $300. I would strongly encourage Town Board Members to support CADA, it possible. The organization has a very strong presence in our community, with the Woodland Olney Senior Apartments and the CADA Head Start Program.
We have a lease agreement with CADA for the use of the building used as the Head Start Program. According to the lease agreement, CADA is supposed to notify the town of any problems and the town and CADA are to share the costs. However, over the years, CADA may have had a lot of work repair work completed, but may not have notified the town. We need to request that CADA provide information regarding work that was done in the past, including dates and costs. As a landlord, Town of Woodland needs to be responsible in making sure that we are upholding our part of the agreement.
Downtown Associate Community (DAC) Program
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 that are interested in attending the session, would be seeking to become affiliated with the Center for Downtown Revitalization Services.
North Carolina Communities with an identifiable, traditional, downtown business district and a population under 50,000, have the opportunity to apply to the Center for services under the Downtown Associate Community Program. Selected communities will receive up to three years of downtown services from the North Carolina Main Street and Rural Planning Center and may have the opportunity to move up Main Street designation, upon completion of that program.
The Downtown Associate Community Program is very competitive program and only 3-5 communities will be selected in 2017. This program is a long-term economic development program, which has a proven, positive impact on investment and job creation. The program will require the support of the town board, the business owners of the local community. Woodland Community Outreach, Inc, may prove to be a very essential partnership in the program.
A packet of information will be provided to all board members. If the Town is interested in further investigation, I would recommend a meeting with the owners of the downtown businesses. I have discussed this program with them and they have expressed an interest in helping to improve our town.
Playground Equipment and Recreation Funds
In the fall of 2016, we acquired the playground equipment from the Northampton County Cultural and Wellness Center. We have not been able to place the equipment at the town's recreation field, because the we need to purchase soft material under and around to equipment, to reduce injuries. Raymond Eaton checked on prices for soft material, which will cost approximately $1,200.
I recently spoke to Margaret Burgwyn regarding funds that were set aside for recreation purposes. The amount was approximately $25,000. I would respectfully recommend that the Town Board allow money from this fund to be utilized for the purposes of purchasing the material, so that we can erect the playground equipment this spring.
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. I think it would be wise for the town to consider the requirement that the owner of the 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 have to have the building inspected by the building inspector. This way, we can be sure that these rental properties are meeting the minimum standards.
Hold Harmless Agreements
As a result of the various activities and scheduled programs that are now being offered by Woodland Community Outreach, Inc., it was felt that a Hold Harmless Agreement should be created, for every participant to sign, agreeing that they will not hold the Town of Woodland, Woodland Community Outreach, Inc. or any of the town's employees, or agents of either organization liable, should an injury occur. I asked Luther Culpepper to review the language of the document and he said that is suitable.
I also asked Mr. Walt Pierce, the town's insurance agent to look at the document. Mr. Pierce said he thinks the language is fine, but Woodland Community Outreach should consider purchasing general liability insurance, just to protect itself, in case someone decides to file a law suit.