January 3, 2019
In January of each year, I have used the Mayor's Report as an instrument to summarize the year in review. The 2018 Calendar Year proved to be another busy and successful year for the Woodland Town Board of Commissioners and the citizens of this community. I would like to thank the Board Members (David Cooper, Pat Liverman, Barbara Outland and Brian Christison) and congratulate them for all of the many hours that they have spent in meetings and in the field, as we continued our efforts to take good care of this town.
A very special thank you is also deserving of our Public Works Employees (Perry Lee Collier and Jessica Griffey) who have worked tirelessly in their efforts to operate our water utilities and keep up with the many other tasks for which they are responsible. In June, the town hired a third Public Works Employee (Tommy Pierce). He is new to the job and has a lot to learn, but we wish him all the best.
Mr. Marshal Lassiter has been a tremendous asset, as our Operator in responsible Charge (ORC) of our water utilities. Mr. Lassiter has a great deal of experience and expertise and Woodland has definitely benefited from his knowledge.
Our Chief of Police, John Ruppe, resigned as of December 7, 2018. Chief Ruppe did an amazing job of reducing the amount of crime in the Town of Woodland, as well as supervising inmates from Odom State Prison, who helped to keep Main Street well maintained. They also painted all of the fire hydrants in town.
I would also like to thank our Town Clerk and Finance Officer, Mrs. Donielle McDermott. Donielle returned to the town's employment ranks in May 2018, and has done a commendable job of helping us complete our annual budget, while learning the complicated bookkeeping system that we use for town business.
Water Rate Increase: Pursuant to state mandates, for the first time in 8 years, the Town of Woodland raised its water rates. The new rate structure is based primarily on water consumption, as well as a base rate for hook up to the town's drinking water and wastewater systems.
The reasons for imposing the rate increase are: 1) to ensure that our water utility system will continue to operate successfully and be financially solvent to pay for itself; 2) to help pay for the loan which was received to construct the new supply well; and 3) to place the town in a more advantageous position to obtain future grants from the state.
The grants are very competitive, because many municipalities and counties are also seeking these funds. They are all experiencing similar problems to what we are facing. Grants are better than loans, because the money does not have to be paid back to the lender; however, that also makes them very attractive to everyone. As a result, the funds are limited and only a few of the many grant requests are awarded.
Construction of New Supply Well: In 2018, the first phase (drilling) of the new well was completed. Due to an unexpected increase in costs, the Town Board had to request additional funding from the state, which was subsequently granted. The amount of the loan increased from $663,550 to $781,328. The 20 year loan is interest free and $331,775 is forgiven, which means the town is not required to reimburse the state for that amount of the loan.
The second phase of construction, the wellhead (structure covering the well hole) is scheduled to begin on or about January 14, 2019. A Pre-Construction Conference has been scheduled for Wednesday, January 9, 2019, at 10:00 am, at Woodland Town Hall. This meeting will formerly set the schedule for all of the work which will be required. Once the new well is completed, Well Number 1, located on Oak Street, will be closed and sealed by a state certified well abatement contractor. This is all included in the costs.
Wastewater System: We have experienced a lot of problems with our ailing wastewater system. Our 56 acre spray field was in dire need of repairs and we were in gross violation of our state issued permit. We have ten spray field sections and only one of them was operating and even that one was not operating at full capacity. Over the past year, we have had to replace spray nozzles and solenoid valves on all of the spray guns. There are 10 guns on each of the ten sections of spray fields. The cost was in excess of $15,000. Special thanks goes to our Public Works Crew, as well as Mr. Lassiter and Commissioners David Cooper and Brian Christison. It could not have been done without their expertise and hard work.
There is still a great deal of work that needs to be done with our wastewater system. We need to clean out the lagoon at the treatment site; replace underground pipes throughout the town; replace, or repair many of our man hole covers; and repair eleven of the man holes. We also need to repair two of the lift stations, which are responsible for moving the wastewater to the treatment facility. The total cost of repairs is estimated to exceed three million dollars.
Asset Inventory and Assessment Grant for Wastewater: In 2017, with the assistance of the engineering firm, Rivers and Associates, we were able to obtain a grant in the amount of $74,663.56 from the State of North Carolina. In 2018, the engineering firm was able to complete a Wastewater Asset Management Plan and a Capital Improvement Plan for the town's wastewater system. Unlike some grants, the AIA Grant required that we pay for the services up front, then seek reimbursement for the expenditures, once the work is completed.
The Asset Management Plan is an extremely detailed document, which covers every section of the town's wastewater system and explains how it operates.
The Capital Improvement Plan is a comprehensive plan which explains the various problems with the wastewater system and the estimated costs for repair. It is worth repeating that the total cost of repairs is estimated to exceed three million dollars.
Asset Inventory Assessment Grant for Drinking Water: The Town Board has recently submitted an application to the State of North Carolina to obtain an Asset Inventory Assessment Grant for the drinking water system. We will need to create an Asset Management Plan and Capital Improvement Plan for our drinking water system, just as we have done for our wastewater system. Rivers and Associates is also assisting the town with this project. These grants will require that the town pays for the work and services up front, then seek reimbursement, after all of the work has been completed.
We have a lot of underground pipes that need to be replaced and also several fire hydrants that need to be replaced. These are all costly expenditures. The town does not possess the ability to pay for these costs and seeking loans is not the answer, because we will still have to pay the money back. We need to apply for more grants, when they become available and we need to do everything we can to ensure that the town is in the best possible position to be awarded those funds. This grant will help put us in a better position than we are at the current time.
Installation of New Water Meters: The town is currently in the midst of replacing the water meters for all of our customers. Some of our water meters have had over 2 million gallons of water flow through them. They are old and are not very efficient. These meters have lost as much as 15% of their efficiency to accurately measure water flow. The Town Board decided to replace all of the meters at one time, so that the town could be sure to receive accurate readings of water consumption.
The new meters are more sophisticated and can be read by a wand. This will save a tremendous amount of time for our employees, who are required to read each meter, each month, then transfer the information into a log book for billing purposes. The new system will allow the employees to simply pass the wand by the meter. The information will be logged in the wand and later be uploaded into the computer system at Town Hall. This will save the town many hours of paid labor and provide a more accurate accounting of water consumption.
Community Development Block Grant: With the assistance of staff members from the Upper Coastal Plain Council of Governments, the Town Board has submitted an application to the state of North Carolina for a two million dollar Community Development Block Grant. The purpose of the grant request is to help repair the town's ailing wastewater system. By implementing the increase in the town's water rates, in addition to completing the Wastewater Asset Management Plan and the Capital Improvement Plan, the Town Board was able to improve Woodland's chances of being considered for this very competitive grant. The state will announce its decision in April.
CADA Head Start Building: In 2017, the Town Board invested over $35,000 in the CADA Head Start Building, by replacing the floors in two classrooms on the lower level and also installing a waterproof system. The waterproof system was installed to prevent outside surface water produced by heavy rains, from entering the building and causing damage to the tile and carpet on the floor.
Unfortunately, we soon realized that in spite of our efforts, during times of heavy rain, surface water was still able to enter the building by flowing under the door. Until we could stop the water from pooling on that side of the building, we would continue to have problems with water flowing into the building. Sealing off the door could not be done, because it serves as an emergency exit for that section of the building.
In 2018, we had to replace the floor again, at a price of $1,491.15. We filed an insurance claim and based on the estimate by the claims adjuster, we were awarded a payment of $3,443.93.
In a concerted effort by CADA Staff Members Roy Worrells and Matt Duncan, as well as Commissioner David Cooper and members of his team at Bryant and Lassiter Septic Tank Services, a plan was formalized to place an underground catch basin behind the building, then connect it to underground pipes which would collect the surface water and run it to the adjacent canal. The total costs exceed $1,500. I am proud to announce that the project was successful and we have not had any more flooding issues at that location, in spite of the heavy rains we have endured over the past several months. According to some meteorologists, 2018 was the wettest year on record in North Carolina!!
We have also replaced three of the seven heating/ac units on the roof of the building. The total replacement cost was $13,100. However, we entered into an agreement with Mrs. Sallie Surface, the Executive Director of CADA. We agreed that both agencies would split the costs in half. So each paid $6,550.
We are now working on replacing five of the toilets in the building (at an approximate cost of $350 each) and rebuilding a valve on a separate toilet. We are also trying to resolve a long standing issue with regards to hot water in one section of the building. The total costs for this work is still pending.
National Guard Armory: In February, the property of the National Guard Armory was returned to the Town of Woodland. The property included two lots and the large 41,000 square foot building. According to records submitted by the North Carolina National Guard, the building tested positive for lead. The lead contamination is blamed on an indoor rifle range, which was once located inside of the building. Although the firing range was removed in 2003, a significant amount of lead still remains in the building.
The Town Board had considered selling the building to a private buyer, through an Upset Bid Process; however, during a Public Hearing held on November 29th, the citizens in attendance requested that more time be given to address the lead contamination issue.
As a result of the meeting, a group of citizens signed up to serve on a committee to try to find a solution to the problem. Members of the Committee are Sydney Joyner, Robert Gosney, Barbara Gosney, Jay Jenkins, Laureen Flood, Lori Tyler and Patty Deneen.
The citizens also requested the Town Board agree to turn on the electricity, heat and water, in order to prevent the building from experiencing rapid decay.
Nationwide Insurance Building: The Nationwide Insurance Building, located on Spruce Street is now unoccupied, since our tenants, Mr. Tommy Forbes and Mr. James Epps have moved their insurance business elsewhere. The town will have to decide what to do with the building. There was a discussion of having it become the new town community library, but the building is really not well suited for that purpose. The town will need to perform some cosmetic work, in order to make the building more appealing and operational for building code requirements. Perhaps we may be able to sell it for a reasonable price.
Smoking Ordinance: The Board had scheduled a meeting with Mr. Luther Culpepper, Town Attorney and members of the Northampton County Health Department to discuss this issue; however, the meeting had to be rescheduled, due to Hurricane Florence. We will need to schedule this meeting in the upcoming months.
Commercial Building Ordinance: The Board had scheduled a meeting with our attorney, Mr. Culpepper, to discuss this issue; however, the meeting had to be rescheduled, due to Hurricane Florence. We will need to schedule this meeting in the upcoming months.
Woodland Volunteer Fire Department Fifth Annual Deer Hunt: The members of the WVFD held their Fifth Annual Deer Hunt in November. In recent years, the event has proven to be a very successful fundraiser. The members of the Fire Department are always on call and are ready at a moment's notice to run into action and put themselves in harms way, if the need arises. We have heard the whistle blow at all times of the day and night and emergencies do not take a day off during holidays, but they are always ready to answer the call. As a community, we are indebted to them for the service they provide to us.
Woodland Community Outreach, Inc: Woodland Community Outreach, Inc. and its members have continued to move forward with a variety of community based activities, which included the third annual Easter Parade, Easter Egg Hunt and National Day of Prayer Gathering. We also co-sponsored the first Woodland Stock Music Festival in April, which had 10 different music groups perform. A special thank you is extended to Mr. Tim Flanagan for arranging for the music groups, which all performed free of charge.
During the summer months, we sponsored three Youth Fun Days, and finished out the summer with a Town-Wide Cookout on Labor Day Weekend. Since 2016, we have sponsored 10 Youth Fun Days!!
In October, we had our Second Annual Woodland Community Heritage Day. This year's event was much better than that of the previous year. Special thanks to Commissioner Barbara Outland for securing the two bands that came to play, as well as the participants of the Antique Car Show Competition. Another feature to this year's festivities was a Chili Contest, which was won by Ron Lane. WCO provided a variety of gifts that were raffled away, as well as a bounce house and bounce slide for the younger children. We also had numerous food and craft vendors on hand.
It was a wonderful day and a terrific crowd of people. I also want to thank the members of Woodland Community Volunteer Fire Department for coming out and joining us. We were all sorry that Chris Collier injured his knee while playing basketball with the youngsters. Heal well, Chris!!
Many thanks to Donielle McDermott, Lynn Lane, Pattie Manuel, Susan Harrison, Vanessa A. Council, Vanessa F. Council, Laureen Flood, Lori Tyler, Robert and Barbara Gosney, Sue Ryan, Maylon Langford, Bobby Mann and everyone else who helped to make this event such a booming success.
In December, WCO sponsored the Third Annual Christmas Light Celebration, with the lighting of the lights at Town Hall and a visit from Santa and Mrs. Claus. The Woodland Community Choir was on hand, once again, to sing Christmas Carols and they stopped at the Grapevine Cafe to share some Christmas Joy.
We also had our Second Annual Christmas Decorating Contest. In the Residential Category, Lori and Jeff Tyler received First Place Honors once again ($100). Brian and Anita Christison won Second Place ($75) and Ken and Pattie Manuel took home Third Place ($50). In the Commercial Business Category, Elizabeth Parker took First Place Honors for her Thrift Store ($100) and Barbara Outland took home Second Place for the Grapevine ($50).
In Closing, I would just like to once again thank the members of the Town Board of Commissioners for all of your hard work, commitment and dedication to the Town of Woodland and its residents. I would also like to thank all of the staff for your hard work and professionalism. You are to be commended for the job that each of you do every day for our community.
To the citizens of Woodland and the surrounding community, I would like to wish each of you the Very Best that this New Year has to offer to you. As I enter my final year as Mayor, I would like to thank you all for your support, your encouragement and also for your criticism. I appreciate everything that has been said and I have tried to do the very best job that I can do in this position.
My prayer is that Almighty God will grant you His Peace and His Comfort and Bless each of you with His Everlasting Arms.
Kenneth W. Manuel, Mayor
Town of Woodland