RED SPRINGS — The water treatment plant will be online sometime in September, commissioners here were told Tuesday.
“September this year should be a great month for all of us,” Mayor Ed Henderson said during a meeting of the Red Springs Board of Commissioners.
The town should complete its water treatment plant replacement project and transfer operations from its old plant to the new plant completely in September.
Water could be discolored at first as fresh, clean water comes through older pipes.
Town Manager David Ashburn said residents may see discolored water as it is transferred over to the new system, but it is still safe and sanitary. The town’s water also has historically had a red tint because of its high mineral content, thus giving the town the name Red Springs.
“We will be flushing the lines to try to keep it clean as possible,” Ashburn said.
More information will be given to residents in their monthly newsletters, which accompany monthly utility bills, he said.
Ground was broken Sept. 1 for the project at the town’s current water treatment plant at 316 Buie St., which was built almost 60 years ago. Preconstruction work also began Sept. 1 on the more than $9.6 million project. WithersRavenel engineers and contractors, with Harper General Contractors, Jymco Development and Charles R. Underwood have worked together on the project.
In August 2018, the town was awarded a $7 million U.S. Department of Agriculture grant for the project. After receiving bids from engineers and material prices that were beyond original estimates, the town had to come up with an extra $2,512,000. The U.S. Department of Agriculture agreed to provide a $1,746,000 grant to fund the project, if the town provided $766,000.
Also on Tuesday, Ashburn asked commissioners if they had opinions on implementing a mask mandate inside town buildings as COVID-19 numbers rise. The town manager said some towns are implementing their own mandates.
Commissioner Duron Burney said he would like to see masks worn inside Town Hall to protect town employees.
“I don’t want them to be shut down because of it (COVID-19),” Burney said.
Masks have not been mandated in the building in the past, Ashburn said. Town Hall did close its doors for entry to the public at one point to ensure the safety of employees during the pandemic.
“I feel like whatever decision you make, we should be willing to follow it,” Commissioner Murray McKeithan said to Ashburn.
Mayor Henderson agreed, but said finding a volunteer to enforce it in areas like the community building could be a challenge.
No action was taken on the mask matter.
Commissioners heard from Chad Deese, 911 director of the 911 Center in Robeson County. The center dispatches emergency calls for towns like Red Springs that renew interlocal 911 service agreements. When someone calls 911, the center uses its computer-aided dispatch system to locate the nearest ambulance. Dispatchers also dispatch calls to departments like the Red Springs Police Department.
Deese said the 911 Center can dispatch a call in about 45 seconds, or no more than one minute and 30 seconds, and it can be done while they are still on the phone with a caller.
“A lot of people tend to think that, you know, we’re asking all these questions and we still haven’t sent anybody or haven’t got anybody on the way,” he said of dispatchers.
Commissioner Elma Patterson told Deese that she waited 45 minutes for an ambulance about two weeks ago, and said EMS workers were using a paper map.
Crystal Batton, who is moving into the 911 assistant director role, said each ambulance has a laptop that aids in navigation. Google maps is used on ambulances to help workers respond to calls. EMS has 22 ambulances and rotates about nine or 10 during the day and night.
“EMS didn’t put the units on the road without those laptops,” Deese said.
He didn’t have an answer for the paper map usage or the long response time, Deese said. But, he could get the commissioner an answer on the response time.
The average response time for EMS is between 20 and 30 minutes, he said. Ambulances are placed in areas in which they respond to frequent calls in order to reduce response times.
The 911 director invited commissioners to visit the center in the Emergency Operations Center at 38 Legend Drive in Lumberton.
He also told commissioners there is a backup center on Commerce Drive, which was built as a result of state legislation that required an identical center to be built in case of service loss or building loss.
“That’s up, that’s running, that’s completed,” Deese said.
Ashburn said the new building is the reason the town has seen an increase in its fees for the 911 service, which is calculated by population. The town was paying about $55,000 but now pays a little more than $66,000 for the services in an interlocal agreement that must be renewed every three years.
Deese also said he is thankful for the Red Springs Rescue Squad, which is working at least three days a week to respond to calls in the community.
“So that’s a blessing to us,” he said.
In other matters, Commissioner Burney said he is working with Red Springs Chief of Police Brent Adkins to plan a Night Out for police and community members. The date for the event has not been chosen.
Also during the meeting, commissioners heard from Chris Cox, funeral director and manager at Golden Gates Funeral Home, during the public comments section of the meeting.
“We are glad to be here,” Cox said.
He invited commissioners and members of the public to the funeral home’s official open house set for Sept. 11 from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. The event will feature games and food at the facility.
Ministers for Justice member Derek McNair also spoke to commissioners and introduced the organization to the town. The group of ministers was formed shortly after the death of George Floyd on May 25, 2020.
“We came together to be a bridge, or a liaison, between the community and our police officers,” McNair said.
The group has made efforts to meet with police chiefs across the county and offer services, prayer and partnership.
“We want to let you know whatever you need of us, we are here to assist you, to aid you,” said McNair, pastor of First Missionary Baptist Church in Red Springs.
“We are open to anyone that may be interested in partnering with us to make a difference in this community,” he added.
Ashburn commended them for their involvement in a stop-the-violence event several months ago.
“And we thank you so much for that,” he said.
The town manager also told the group he is open to collaborations and new ideas.
Reach Jessica Horne at 910-416-5165 or via email at [email protected]