ROWLAND — The Rowland Board of Commissioners were told Tuesday that it may need to make some “tough decisions” to turn around the town’s damaged and outdated wastewater system.
“You have a system that’s a liability not an asset,” said Jean Kline, a Community Economic Services administrator with the Lumber River Council of Governments. “You’re going to have to make some tough decisions.”
During the meeting, Kline delivered the final report from the Wastewater System Asset Inventory and Assessment project, which was funded by a grant from the N.C. Department of Environmental Quality.
The $126,000 grant allowed the town to hire the Aberdeen-based engineering firm LKC Engineering PLLC to study and guide the town through needed improvements to its sewer system.
Kline told board members that flow from the outdated treatment plant, placed in service in 1968, is below average. The report also found that 54% of sewer and gravity lines are fair but 25% are in very poor condition. About 14% of the conditional manholes are in poor condition, with 3% being very poor.
Kline said that high flow and infiltration in the collection system during heavy rains — roughly an inch — results in backup in sewers lines and manholes for several days.
About 73,000 gallons comes daily from customers, Kline said. Inflow and infiltration from basins results in an additional 47,461 gallons on average. She said that when there’s about an inch of rain, which happens often, a total of 483,967 gallons comes in bringing the total to 604,428 gallons. The plant’s capacity is 385,000 gallons.
On average, the town is more than $2.4 million backlogged on capital improvement needs, Kline said. The total 10-year capital improvement need, plus the backlog, is more than $5.8 million.
At the top of the improvement recommendation list is replacing the Bracey Branch Pump Station and rehabilitating the Waffle House Pump Station. Together the cost would be a little more than $2 million.
Kline suggested the town look at grant and/or loan programs and consider a water and sewer rate adjustment.
“I’m not telling you this to say this is bad and you need to fix it. I’m telling you this because you need to hear it. You can’t keep traveling down the path you’re own.”
Bill Lester, of LKC Engineering, told board members he will sit down with Town Clerk David Townsend and discuss funding options.
In more positive news, the commissioners gave themselves a pat on the back for what was another favorable audit from John Masters, of S. Preston Douglas and Associates, the town’s auditing firm.
Masters presented a graph depicting the past 20 years of audits.
”Because of some hard decisions, the cash has rebounded to the current levels you see here today,” Masters said. “That’s no accident. You folks have a thankless job up here.”
The 2019 report showed the year-end cash balance is a little more than $4.2 million, about a $200,000 increase from last f year’s balance. The unassigned portion of the general fund balance increased dramatically from the past year, from about $2 million to about $2.7 million. In the years 2006 and 2007 the balance was in the negative.
Property tax collections have been steady since 2013. A total of 92% was collected during fiscal year 2018-19. The collection rate for FY 2017-18 was 93%
“I think that’s pretty good for this part of the county,” Masters said.
The board also voted Tuesday to proceed with repairing an electric welcome sign. The town raised $25,000 in 2008 to have the sign installed, but it stopped working in 2016. The Public Schools of Robeson County, which owns the sign, gave it to the the town.
Commissioner Paul Hunt was able to collect about $6,100 in donations for the repairs, which cost $7,000.
Tomeka Sinclair can be reached at [email protected] or 910-416-5865.