Mount Gilead Town Commissioners met last night and approved a plan to proceed with the replacement of some aged water mains running along Main St.
The project is expected to cost just over a million dollars. Under the plan, the town will have to pay $50,000 upfront, with about $360,000 in grant money from the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the balance financed by the USDA at 2.75%, resulting in an annual repayment of approximately $25,000.
In presenting the financing plan to the town, Allen Hart of the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Rural Development office in Asheboro reminded Commissioners of one aspect of the importance of quality water.
“I’m not trying to sell you on this, but let’s think about how much the value of having clean, potable water is,” said Hart. “Regardless of what it means to you as an individual and your health, think about what it means to you as far as the value of your property. How much is your house worth if you haven’t got clean water coming to it? That’s a nice little shed to keep your stuff in.”
“In my opinion, if you don’t have clean running water coming to your house, your house ain’t worth nothing.”
Hart said the USDA will be heavily involved in the oversight of the project, which addressed some of Mayor Patty Almond’s concern over the town’s continued relationship with consulting firm Hobbs, Upchurch and Associates. While Almond was supportive of the project, she challenged Commissioners to find ways to avoid water rate increases when formulating each year’s budget.
“I would like to charge the council with finding a way to make this loan payment without raising water rates,” Almond said. “It’s not much to cut out of a budget – $25,000 a year. If we could figure out how to do that without raising the rates, I would be thrilled.”
Some residents continue to question the need for replacing the water lines. Town Manager Katrina Tatum reminded those present at the meeting that portions of the line installed in the 1950s are made up of asbestos cement pipe, which is prone to deterioration and the release of asbestos fibers into the drinking water.
WMTG reported earlier that asbestos exposure of this kind is not known to cause mesothelioma and other conditions typically identified with asbestos, but the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has warned that the prolonged ingestion of the asbestos fibers can increase the risk of benign intestinal polyps.
Another issue brought to light last night is the number of fire hydrants on Main St. rendered inoperable by problems related to aged valves and failing pipes.
Fire Chief Keith Byrd said, “Basically, there’s a concern because there’s been so many hydrants on the main line that have become inoperative, or we’re not getting the flow through them that we should. Replacing this main trunk line will increase the water flow, and the monies will allow us to get new hydrants and more hydrants along that main trunk line, that will help us in the event that any of the larger buildings on Main St. were to catch on fire.”
“At the present time,” Byrd continued, “we would really be in a struggle to be able to equip all the additional trucks that would probably be needed if one of these larger building was to catch on fire.”
Byrd said at least 7 hydrants along Main St. are either not working at all or are faulty. He said a major fire under those conditions would require tanker truck assistance from other departments.
The water project financing documents were signed last night, and the entire project could take about two years to complete.