Newton Grove was struggling with an outdated water and sewer system and depleted town funds when the town received a once-in-a-generation opportunity through the distribution of funds from the American Rescue Plan.
Newton Grove is a town of approximately 585 residents in Sampson County, NC. It is the type of small North Carolina town where everyone knows everyone else’s name. When you drive through, you will likely notice the Newton Grove Water Tower that stands near the center of town and has become a sort of landmark within the community. Yet, while the water tower has become a symbol of the town, beneath the surface, Newton Grove was dealing with an outdated water and sewer system and depleted funds with which to make the necessary upgrades. So when it was announced that Newton Grove would receive approximately $180,000 in ARP funds, town officials knew exactly where to invest it.
The town put the funds into reconstructing the town’s two wells and repairing some of the lift stations, both of which are essential for a functioning water and sewer system. Much of the system’s infrastructure is over 40 years old and has needed repairs to bring it up to date. Newton Grove recognizes that upgrading water systems is not the flashiest project, but it is one that is vitally important to residents’ daily lives and one that requires an enormous amount of time and money.
“A lot of people do not understand what it takes to run a waste treatment plant or to run a clean, clear drinking water system. I hope that our municipality and other communities understand that it takes so much,” Newton Grove Town Clerk and Zoning & Planning Administrator Amanda Bradshaw said.
These funds could not have come at a more needed time. Before the ARP funds’ distribution, the town was unsure how they would finance the necessary repairs. Bradshaw shared how it felt that the town was holding its breath, unsure of how they would be able to accomplish what was needed.
“We’re on the UAL list and we had applied for a few grants, but unfortunately, we were not chosen for those grants, so it was kind of a scary time when I came in and took over financially,” Bradshaw said. “We were at a place where we really did not know what we were going to do. So that ARP money saved us.”
Towns may end up on the UAL (Unit Assistance List), which is overseen by the Local Government Commission within the State Treasurer’s office for a variety of reasons, including when they do not have enough available funds to cover expenditures. Newton Grove was placed on the UAL prior to the pandemic, but through the assistance of the ARP funds, have seen their status improve greatly.
Bradshaw shared the incredible impact these funds will have on their town, “We have struggled so long with trying to be able to figure out how to do some of these [repairs]. And we are still in the process of needing more repairs, but that money helped us tremendously […] to bring us up to a level where we should be.”
The League has heard many similar stories from across the state where ARP funds are helping towns fix ongoing infrastructure challenges. The funds are replacing lost revenue for towns with declining populations and are allowing towns experiencing a growth in population to proactively update their equipment.
“I cannot tell you how critical [the ARP funds] have been,” Richard Marvin, NCLM ARP Field Representative, said. “It has been a phenomenal thing to have direct revenue sharing like this […] and it is allowing towns to see investment into their infrastructure so they can attract more growth.”
The League has come alongside Newton Grove as a consultant for appropriately following the required procedures of accepting ARP funds and offering services for grant writing, legal counsel, cybersecurity, and communications.
“The League has been very helpful with the reports that we have had to do with ARP. I cannot thank [them] enough,” Bradshaw said. “I think anybody should take advantage of anything that the League offers as an education or simply just sitting down with somebody and just speaking to them.”