All across our state, cities and towns implement transformational changes when given the opportunity. The case studies presented here highlight that leadership and showcase the transformational changes that can occur when our communities receive support.
$50,000 grant in 2017; $4.5 million in grants in 2020.
Catch up on deferred maintenance; water and sewer organization.
Sustainable infrastructure; lower rates for utility users.
CASE STUDY • 01
(Community size: 1,640; System Users: 850)
Since 2017, the Town of Bethel, located in Pitt County, has been on a path to get out of the water and sewer business by working on a regionalization project with the City of Greenville. The project has not been without expense and could not have happened without significant outside funding.
The town received a $50,000 grant (awarded by the state Division of Water Infrastructure) to study the feasibility of regionalization in 2017. Then in 2020, it received various grants totaling $4.5 million to begin the actual infrastructure work, allowing the town to catch up on deferred maintenance and other tasks that ensured its partner municipality, and its ratepayers would not assume that cost. The work includes point repairs of sewer lines, replacement of some water lines, changes intended to reduce water infiltration, and possible relocation of a pump station to a less flood-prone area.
For Bethel and its residents, the result may not only be a more sustainable system moving forward, but also eventual cheaper water and sewer rates. That change may not happen immediately, as the town is currently paying down some earlier, existing debt taken for system improvements. But lower rates remain a goal of everyone involved and could help attract more residents and businesses in the future.
$15 million total in grants
Sustainable infrastructure; lower rates for citizens.
CASE STUDY • 02
Elkin + Jonesville + Ronda, NC
(Community size: 7,200*; System Users: 3,700*)
*Total among all three municipalities
Elkin, Jonesville, and Ronda are in three separate counties in the northwestern part of the state.
Despite the county lines separating them, the three towns in 2006 agreed to consolidate their wastewater treatment operations through the formation of the Yadkin Valley Sewer Authority. The real work began in 2010, but after more than a decade, the new authority has spent roughly $16 million to improve infrastructure and stem rising costs and rates for customers. Roughly $15 million of that money has come from state or federal grant and loan programs, with spending spanning a long period of time due to the competitiveness of the awards and relative scarcity of funds.
The consolidation has allowed the three towns to operate a system under one joint discharge point with a single discharge site, instead of three. It has also meant addressing continued failures of the three separate systems, as well as providing for economies of scale that can lower operating costs and stabilizing user rates.
$3 million loan.
Stormwater infrastructure restoration.
Water quality protection; flood mitigation; infrastructure resiliency.
CASE STUDY • 03
(Community size: 65,000; System Users: 31,000)
Since 2019, Hendersonville has been working on what it calls its Multi-Area Streambank Restoration Project. Intended to address erosion, stormwater control, and water quality along an impaired stream, Mud Creek, and its tributaries, the effort involves restoring roughly 2.5 miles of streambanks through grading and plant buffer projects at 13 separate sites across the city. Other stormwater investments and wetland restoration at a city park also are components of the plan.
The project was made possible through a $3 million zero-interest loan from the Clean Water State Revolving Fund, which will be repaid over time through payments made from the city’s utility fund. In some respects, the project will pay for itself. It is expected to help protect existing sewer pipes and other infrastructure along the creeks. It will also protect water quality downstream, while mitigating flooding.
American Rescue Plan funds.
Resolve water pressure issues; county partnerships.
Improved operations through inter-local agreement.
CASE STUDY • 04
St. James, NC
(Community size: 6,300; System Users: 43,000*)
*Total of Brunswick County system users, which includes St. James.
The Town of St. James provides a forward-looking case study, as the municipality has already committed to using ARP funds for water infrastructure.
The town lies in southeastern Brunswick County along the Intercoastal Waterway, just north of Oak Island, and its residents rely on Brunswick County Utilities for water and sewer service. During peak usage months in the summer, residents experience water pressure issues that can create major problems, whether at home or work. The town is poised to receive $1.99 million in American Rescue Plan funds and is hopeful to use those dollars to address the water pressure issues.
In August, the town council voted to begin negotiations for an interlocal agreement that would transfer the money over to the county utility in exchange for expediting a plan to improve the water pressure problem. Improvements may include the construction of a new elevated water storage tank in the area, a new transmission water main, and pressure valves on some existing mains. Brunswick County, meanwhile, plans to spend the bulk of its $27.6 million in American Rescue Plan funding on water and sewer projects, so both local governments appear to be moving toward the same goal of more viable utility.