September 6, 2018
TOWN WATER RATES
Current Water Rate: The Town of Woodland has not raised the water rates since 2010. The current water rate system is based on a usage of 3,000 gallons of water and 3,000 gallons of wastewater. The cost for the first 3,000 gallons of water is $21.00. The same is true for wastewater. As such, a minimum water bill is $42 (21+21). After the first $3,000 gallons of water is used, an additional 50 cents is added to the bill for every 1,000 gallons used, beyond the first 3,000 gallons of water and wastewater. Unfortunately, we have to increase our water rates in order to keep up with the costs of running the water and wastewater systems.
Water Rate Increase: On May 3, 2018, during the regularly scheduled meeting of the Woodland Town Board of Commissioners, the Board Members approved a new water rate structure for the town's drinking water and wastewater. The next step in the process was to schedule a public hearing, to give the citizens an opportunity to review the proposed changes and to ask any questions they may have.
On August 16, 2018, a Public Hearing was held. The citizens were advised that there are some issues that need to be addressed with regards to the new water rate structure, before it will be implemented. Everyone was also told that the new monthly water bills may vary largely, from one household to another, as well as from one month to another for a single household, based on monthly usage.
New Water Rate Structure: The new rate for drinking water will be set at a base rate of $14.00 for the hook up to the water system. Then charge each customer $3.50 for every 1,000 gallons used.
The new rate for sewer water will be set at a base rate of $13.00 for the hook up to the sewer system. Then charge each customer $4.50 for every 1,000 gallons used.
The total base rate for both water and sewer combined will be $27.00. The total each customer will be charged is $8.00 for every 1,000 gallons of water and every 1,000 gallons of sewer water used.
If a customer uses 3,000 gallons of drinking water and 3,000 gallons of sewer water in one month, the cost is $8.00, plus the cost for drinking water hook up ($14.00) and the cost for sewer water hook up ($13.00). The new bill will be $51.00 This figure represents an increase of $9.00 above the current water bill ($42.00) for the same amount of gallon usage of drinking water and wastewater for the month.
Asset Inventory Assessment Grant for Wastewater System: On June 2, 2017, Woodland received notification from the state that it was approved for a Wastewater Asset Inventory and Assessment Grant from the Water Infrastructure Fund in the amount of $76,000. Special features of the grant included a 1.5% ($1,140.00) Grant Fee. Additionally, 5% of the grant could be paid through “In Kind” services, such as the cost of labor required to complete the project. The work on the Asset Inventory Assessment Project has been completed and we are now in the midst of applying for reimbursement of the spent funds.
With regards to “In Kind” services, the total amount of hours performed by town employees on this project equals 78.5 hours. The total amount of money spent to pay for these services equals $1,323.56.
Wastewater Asset Management Plan: We have recently received the final version of the Wastewater Asset Management Plan from Rivers and Associates. The Asset Inventory Management Plan presents a detailed description of the Town's wastewater system and how it is operated. This document was made possible through the $76,000 Asset Inventory Assessment Grant which the town received from the State.
Capital Improvement Plan for Wastewater System: The Capital Improvement Plan was also completed by Rivers and Associates, as a result of the funding from the Asset Inventory Assessment Grant. The CIP identifies the problem areas of the wastewater system, the estimated cost for repairs and a three-phase program to repair those areas. The estimated costs of repairs for the wastewater system is $3,282,000.00.
Community Development Block Grant: In an attempt to pay for some of the expansive work of our ailing wastewater system, the Town Board is seeking the assistance of the Upper Coastal Plain Council of Governments, to obtain a $2 million community development block grant to help fund the repair projects. A Public Hearing has been scheduled for August 27, 2018, to share this information with the citizens of the town and explain the process for completing the application.
DRINKING WATER SYSTEM
Water Meters: Mr. Marshall Lassiter, the town's Officer in Responsible Charge (ORC) for the water and wastewater system has recommended that we replace the town's water meters. We have a total of 259 meters in town. Based on recent assessments, 97 meters register that over 1 million gallons of water have gone through each of them. We also have 41 meters in Woodland that register having had in excess of 2 million gallons of water pass through them. According to state standards, any meter that has over 1 million gallons of water, should be replaced. Mr. Lassiter said he would recommend that the meters be replaced at 2 million gallons.
According to Mr. Lassiter, when a meter has experienced over 2 million gallons of water, on average, it becomes between 9%-15% ineffective. That means we are losing between 9% to 15% of our water. The water is passing through the meter, but it is not being registered. That means we are not charging our customers for that 9%-15% of water usage. As such, the water utility is losing money and the town is losing money, because the town is still paying the electric bill for the pump, which is used to pump the water through the town.
The Town Board is considering investing in wand meters. They are more expensive than standard meters, but in the long run, they will prove to be very cost effective. The town uses approximately 36 man hours to read meters each month. With a wand reader, it would take 1 person 4 hours to read all of the meters. He said replacement meters will cost approximately $75 each. Since the town must replace so many of the meters, this is the time to consider changing over to an auto read system. The purchase and installation cost will be between $55,000 and $60,000.
Fire Hydrants: During the Town Board Meeting on May 3, 2018, Mr. Lassiter also informed the Board Members that he and the Public Works Crew recently did an extensive fire hydrant flushing test on all of the hydrants in town. He said there are 15 hydrants that require significant repair, or replacement. He said this is another need for the Town Board to consider. New valves will also need to be purchased for each of those hydrants.
Valves for Underground Water Pipes: If we are able to apply for and obtain a grant to repair our drinking water system, we need to consider not only replacing those 15 hydrants, but also placing new valves (20) at strategic locations throughout town so that we can shut off water at certain locations, without having to shut water off for the entire town, or a large section of town. For example, if there is a water line break on Peach Tree Street, the water would have to be shut off for the entire north side of town. The problem may only affect one, or two homes, but because there are no valves in that neighborhood, the water must be shut off at Main Street. This scenario has played itself out on numerous occasions over the past few years.
Application for Increased Funding for Production Well: On October 4, 2016, Woodland was formally approved to receive a water revolving loan in the amount $663,550.00 from the NC Department of State Treasury, State and Local Government Finance Division and the Local Government Division. The funding request was made by the town, in order to install a new production well for the town's drinking water.
The term of the loan was set at a period of 20 years. One-half of the loan amount ($331,775.00) was determined as “Principal Forgiveness,” which means the Town of Woodland would not be responsible to pay back that amount. Pursuant to the terms of the loan, annual payments in the amount of $16,588.75 were to made each year in May for the remaining balance of the loan.
Drilling for the test well project on Linden Street commenced in mid-March 2017. According to the contract, it was agreed that expenses would be covered down to a depth of 360 feet. A.C. Shultes, the contractor on the project, did find an aquifer at that depth, but according to geological studies; a larger aquifer, the Cape Fear Aquifer, was located at 420 feet.
Due to the excessive depth involved, the costs of the test drill project was increased by approximately $18,740.00, from $130,242.27, to $148,982.27. This was an alarming concern for the Town Board. Mr. Blaine Humphrey, an engineer from Rivers and Associates and the Project Engineer stated, “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.” The drilling was completed in mid-May 2017.
The next phase of this project is to install the wellhead, which is the structure which covers the production well. Due to higher than anticipated estimated costs, which were presented by bidding contractors, the total expense of the project will far exceed the original estimated costs, which were considered at the time the original loan was approved. As a result, the town has submitted a request to the state for additional funding, in order to complete the job. The town is seeking additional funding of $121,375, which will bring the total loan amount up to $784,925.
Once the new well is completed, Well # 1, located on Oak Street, will be permanently closed by a state certified well abatement contractor.
GIS Survey/GIS Mapping: On June 21, 2018, Blaine Humphrey of the engineering firm Rivers and Associates presented a budget amount to complete the GIS/GPS Survey and Mapping of Woodland's water system (both water and wastewater). The total costs for the entire job is $18,500, which encompasses 183 man hours. This comes out to about $101 per hour. To have all of this work completed will be a big boost for the town and beneficial for future work projects on the underground pipes and connections. It will take approximately 4 months to complete all of the work.
Mr. Humphrey recommends not starting the work until after the leaves start falling, due to better satellite reception. The Town Board has discussed this matter at an earlier board meeting; however, we need to make a decision as to whether or not we wish to move forward with this project. If the Board is in agreement to move forward, Rivers and Associates will prepare a written agreement for execution.
Asset Inventory Assessment for Water System: The Water System for the Town of Woodland is also in need of improvements and repairs. Rivers and Associates has recommended that the town submit an application for an Asset Inventory Assessment Grant, just as it has done for the wastewater system. The grant will assist the town in identifying all of the areas of the system which require repair, or adjustment.
TOWN BOARD WORKSHOP MEETINGS
The Town Board has scheduled three Workshop Meetings in order to address some other issues that are pertinent to the town. These meetings are open to the public and are used as a tool to assist the board in the preparation of plans and upcoming projects.
Emergency Disaster Plan – On July 19, 2018, Board Members met with Ronnie Storey, the Director of the Northampton County Emergency Management Department. We discussed the process for addressing emergency disasters in the Town of Woodland. Mr. Storey discussed the need for identifying locations for emergency shelters, such as Town Hall and local church buildings. We also discussed how the Red Cross is called in to service a community and the role of the Northampton County Emergency Management Office.
Smoking Ordinances – At 6:00 pm, on October 11, 2018, the Town Board has scheduled a workshop meeting to discuss the idea of creating a Smoking Ordinance for the town. Also scheduled to attend the meeting will be Luther Culpepper, the town's attorney, as well as Andy Smith, the Director of Northampton County Health Department and Virginia McClary, an Education Specialist for the Health Department.
Commercial Business Ordinance – On the same date in October, the Town Board will also meet at 7:00 pm, to discuss the idea of creating an ordinance to address commercial business buildings in town. The Town Board Members are concerned about the condition of some of the vacant commercial buildings in the town. That meeting will also be attended by town attorney Luther Culpepper.
A meeting of the Town's Planning Board was scheduled for August 20, 2018. The purpose of the meeting was to get the members to focus on rebuilding the board, by identifying other people in the community who might be willing to serve in this very important organization, which is charged with enforcing the Zoning Ordinance for the town.
Three of the six members (Curtis Benton, Edward Bryant and Perce “PJ” Cole ) resigned earlier this year. Mr. Benton and Mr. Cole were the two members representing the Extra Territorial Jurisdiction (ETJ) and were appointed by the Northampton County Board of Commissioners. Mr. Bryant served as an Alternate to the Planning Board. The three remaining members are Stewart Beasley (Chairperson), Jane Mann and Carita Hall Reynolds.
Additionally, the town is also in need of someone to serve as Zoning Administrator, a position vacated by Raymond Eaton, who resigned last year.
CADA HEAD START BUILDING
Over the past year, the Town Board has invested over $40,000 into the CADA Head Start Building. Funds were used to install a waterproof system in the lower portion of the building, replace floors in two of the classrooms, and replace three of the heating and cooling units located on the roof.
The building is still suffering from flooding issues, due to surface water runoff during heavy rain incidents. Due to the way in which the ground is graded in the back of the building, water is entering the building through one of the doors. As a result, one of the floors will need to be partially replaced again. This work will be completed during the last week of August. Additionally, plans have also been made to address the surface water issue on the outside of the building, by building two berms, which will be strategically placed at the back of the building to keep surface water away from the back of the building. The downspouts will also be upgraded, to improve water runoff.
The Town Board recently agreed to set aside one of its buildings (the Forbes Building, which was the home of the Nationwide Insurance Agency for many years) as the location for a new town library. The insurance agency is in the midst of moving out of the building. There will be some construction and electrical work required, before the building will be suitable for the purposes of a library. Building Contractor Kenny Lee recently toured the building and stated that the estimated costs will be $30,000. It is felt by some that the costs will be much less, if the repairs can be done by volunteers.