JONESVILLE — The Jonesville Town Council raised water rates Monday evening while also approving an application for a grant to help restore and repair part of the town’s water lines.
Prior to beginning any official business, a moment of silence was held in memory of town councilwoman Judy Wolfe, who passed away last Thursday morning.
As business was addressed, the town council proposed an action item to raise water rates to address a shortfall in making ends meet in the water department. Five different rate options for raising water rates were explored by the council members.
No one spoke up for a public hearing on the rate options.
“Each option would generate the additional revenues needed,” said Town Manager Scott Buffkin. “I truly wish that water could be free, but we have our bills to pay just like everybody, and with the improvement to the water plant a few years ago, the water payments that come along with it are $108,000 a year and there’s no way we can make up those revenues. It’s unfortunate, but’s that’s where we are.”
The town received a letter from the Department of State Treasury a couple months ago notifying officials that the water rates were not sufficient to cover expenses and state officials were concerned with how that has affected the financial situation of the town as a whole.
As the town discussed in prior meetings, the water department’s need to average collections of $65,000 monthly to cover budgeted expenses. The previous rates were projected to be 7.25 percent lower than needed to reach this amount.
“We’ve done everything we can to maintain our expenses for years and years,” said Buffkin. “Each rate option would affect different classes and customers. I know it’s not an easy decision for the council, but unfortunately, that’s where we are tonight.”
“I would like us to choose the one that would not affect the low income families,” said council member Tracy Wall.
The town council unanimously approved the option which will increase the base fee (maintain base usage at 2,000 gallons) by $2 per month and increase volumetric rate by $1 making the rate $7.50 per 1,000 gallons.
“We don’t have much choice, because of the letter we received from the Department of Treasurer,” said Mayor Gene Pardue. “We’ve been using tax money to supplement the water department and they said we can’t continue to do that.”
In other business, a public hearing was heard on the Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) application. The town staff had been working with an engineering firm on an application package for the CDBG application. They had identified a number of locations in town in need of water line replacements and repair. The CDBG program is designed to assist with the repairs for areas with low and moderate income levels.
A public hearing is required to allow the public to provide input on the proposed application. A follow-up meeting will be scheduled later this month to complete the application process.
“We have identified the number of locations in town that need replacement or repair,” said Buffkin. “Areas identified as being in most need of attention and most likely to be awarded the grant including North Mineral Springs Drive, Shaw Street and River Road.”
“The funding for the CDBG program comes from the United States Department of Housing and Urban Development,” said Clarence Lockamy, engineer with the Wooten Company Consulting Engineering Firm. “The program must meet one of three of the national objectives — those being to benefit low and moderate income persons, to prevent slum, and to address urgent need in the community. Eligible entities include all small towns in North Carolina except for towns previously identified.”
The application deadline is at 5 p.m. Sept. 30. Purposes for the funding will include improving quality of life for low, middle income persons through providing clean safe drinking water. Programs must benefit residential areas in low income areas and must minimize displacement of individuals. Water projects include but are not linked into water loss in distribution systems, contaminated systems, dry wells, assisting with low water pressures, or rehabilitation or replacement of waste water treatment plant to allow for greater efficiency and compliance with state regulations. The town will replace up to $2 million, or 100 percent, of project costs.
“As always, there’s no guarantee that it will be awarded, but we’re hoping it will so we won’t have to pass costs along,” said Buffkin.
If the CDBG grant doesn’t work out, an alternative would be to go for a grant/loan program that can be applied for with the CDBG application.
“It may not be a full grant, but a loan which would drive the costs of the project for us. We hope to get the full grant and not the partial,” Buffkin said.
A resolution was passed to authorize the town manager and/or the mayor to execute whatever documents were necessary to submit the grant application.
Also during Monday’s meeting, several members of the public spoke during the public comments period.
Heather Macy from the Tri-County Christian Crisis Ministry thanked the town for its continuous support.
“I just wanted to make the board aware that this September is Hunger Action Month and next month will be our 30th anniversary of serving the community,” said Macy. “Thank you for supporting us financially and the different projects we’ve had. We appreciate everything you’ve done for us and the community to help reduce hunger in our community.”
Virginia Montgomery Wagoner of the Jonesville Historical Society spoke about the passing of councilwoman Judy Wolfe.
“We want to thank the town hall for letting us use this area to represent Judy Wolfe. She was a special person. Even though I lived here, she taught me a lot about the history. Nobody knows how brilliant she was,” said Wagoner.
“We’re going to keep the museum open. We’re to finish what she started, but we want you to work with us. It’s time to move on from things and start anew. The more you say out in public about somebody, it gets back to them. It’s better to like somebody than hate somebody. Now is the time to take a look at yourself and see what you want to do for the future and how you want to handle yourself because you never know, it might be us tomorrow. I know we’re all going to miss Judy, because she did a big part of this town.”
Troy Brooks may be reached at 336-258-4058.