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Thursday, 23 July 2020 12:22

Ellerbe awarded state grant, loan to help pay for sewer project

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Ellerbe awarded state grant, loan to help pay for sewer project Pixabay

ELLERBE — One town is getting help with a much-needed sewer project, but it’s still not enough to foot the bill.


Gov. Roy Cooper’s office announced on Thursday that Ellerbe is one of the recipients of loans and grants to help pay for 54 drinking water and wastewater projects across the state.

The funding was approved July 8 by the State Water Infrastructure Authority, an “independent body with primary responsibility for awarding federal and state funding for water and wastewater infrastructure projects.”

“North Carolina’s communities need strong, resilient water infrastructure to support economic development,” Cooper said in a statement. “This funding provides water and wastewater improvements essential for clean water, public health and a brighter economic future.”

According to Cooper’s office, the town will “receive $2,097,000 in combined funding through a Wastewater State Reserve grant and loan and a Clean Water State Revolving fund loan, with principal forgiveness, for rehabilitation of its sewer system.”

Ellerbe Mayor Fred Cloninger said he received a letter on Wednesday announcing the award and breaking down the different sources of the funding.

He said the town is eligible for up to $549,539 of a state reserve project grant and $1,547,461 through the Clean Water State Revolving Fund loan program. With the loan, the state will forgive up to $500,000 with the remainder being payable at 0% interest.

That leaves the town a little more than $1 million it will have to pay back — interest-free or not.

However, Ellerbe still has to come up with the remainder of the $2.3 million sewer project.

Several years back, the town received a grant from the N.C. Department of Environment and Natural Resources for a study of its antiquated sewer system.

The study, Cloninger said, found “a lot of glaring problems,” including old clay terracotta pipes that have eroded over the years.

Since the town’s sewer plant was closed, Ellerbe has been pumping its sewage to Rockingham.

Cloninger said town leaders noticed that sometimes the bill was twice as high as it should have been due to rainwater seeping into the sewer lines.

“We’re paying Rockingham to treat rainwater,” he said.

LKC Engineering developed a plan for the project and the town was denied when it first applied for a state water infrastructure grant, according to Cloninger.

With help from LKC, another application was submitted earlier this year.

Out of 80 or so applicants, Cloninger said Ellerbe scored the seventh-highest on the application.

With the state of the town’s finances, Cloninger said LKC has been asked to look into more “free money” — in the form of both state and federal grants —  to help pay for the project.

“We’re not really in the position to take on any more debt,” he said. 

The matter will be discussed at Ellerbe’s town meeting on Aug. 3 and Cloninger said he’ll see which way the council wants to go.

“They all know how critical this is,” he said.

The state also funded notable projects in Rockingham, Pender and Martin counties, as well as projects in Jones, Columbus and Bladen counties related to issues from Hurricane Florence.

 

 

William R. Toler

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