Mount Airy seeks stimulus funds for sewer projects

First Posted: 4/6/2009

After wishing for free federal stimulus money to fund various sewer-expansion projects, Mount Airy officials are pursuing a plan for two which will require it to foot half their nearly $1 million expense.
Those projects include expanding sewer lines at Piedmont Triad West Industrial Park at an anticipated cost of $499,375, to help lure new companies, and rehabilitating aging sewer lines at various areas around town, an expense of about $425,000.
City leaders, in earlier preparing a list of 11 water and wastewater projects they hope could be funded through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, had hoped Surrys designation as a Tier One county would mean extra help financing them.
North Carolinas Tier One counties, typically defined as rural areas that are economically distressed, sometimes receive additional consideration when undertaking infrastructure projects. Mount Airy officials hoped this would translate into the city being awarded straight 100-percent grants for projects on the list.
In discussing planned sewer projects at a meeting late last week, members of the city Board of Commissioners seemed to be hoping for good news along those lines when briefed on their status by City Manager Don Brookshire. But they require matching funds, Brookshire told the board. This means Mount Airy would have to pick up half the tab for the work in the form of a zero-interest loan.
Despite Mount Airy already facing a huge debt load from past infrastructure projects tied to annexation and plant expansions, board members were of the opinion that getting money for half the cost now would be better than funding the entire amount later. Delaying the projects to a later date also could mean missing out on the stimulus money now available for such work.
I dont see how you can pass this up, Commissioner Jon Cawley said.
Its either pay now or pay later, Mayor Jack Loftis said of the budget ramifications involved with such projects.
Brookshire said there is no guarantee that the sewer-line expansion at Piedmont Triad West Industrial Park would allow any investment by the city to be recouped anytime soon, even though the project is viewed as needed to attract new prospects there. Such uncertainty is a result of the economic situation severely curtailing companies expansion and relocation.
Meanwhile, the sewer-line rehabilitation would address ongoing problems with deteriorating pipes installed many years ago. Some of Mount Airys water-sewer infrastructure dates to 1900.
If funded, the $425,000 project would allow rehabilitation of some 4,200 feet of lines at various problem areas around town. About four sewer lines have broken in the past month.
The planning phase of the two projects being eyed for funding is to the point that the city would be ready to proceed with the work if the money is made available.
Brookshire told the board that the municipality later could elect not to receive the money if approved for it, but that option wouldnt exist if the application wasnt submitted. The commissioners agreed that this should be done.
Contact Tom Joyce at [email protected] or at 719-1924.

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