Board members discussed water during the Northampton County Board of Commissioners meeting Monday.
First, Mark Garner Jr., River & Associates vice president, suggested the county apply for a $50,000 state grant for a regionalization feasibility study project for wastewater service to a small rural residential area on Barrows Mill Road located near Jackson.
In the past couple of months, the last application for the Community Development Block Grant turned in to the state, “once again scored high enough to be funded, but the State Water Infrastructure Authority, the governing board that awards the grant, kept looking at it as they have in the past,” Garner said. ”They kept talking about the high unit cost of $2M to serve nine residents. We all know if you are one of the nine and you have a problem you want some help.”
Garner said it was suggested by the SWIA board the county might benefit from obtaining a merger/regionalization grant, which is a $50,000 no matching funds required grant. SWIA suggested to make sure all alternatives potentially available to the community have been looked at and the $50,000 grant would fund that search.
“It can also be not just a merger, but a regionalization — a community with a problem. How can you regionalize a solution?” he asked.
Garner said the county had engaged with a soil scientist to look at the soil samples in that area of that community to see if there is a feasible way to repair the system or put in a community septic system.
The pricing and information was comparable to the option that was discussed, pumping to the Town of Jackson and letting them treat the wastewater in their plant which they agreed to do, Garner said. Through SWIA’s suggestion, the county can submit a grant application once a year at the end of September, and discover the results in the spring, he said.
Board Chairman Charles Tyner said the county has already gone through preliminary steps and sending in the application.
“They are offering $50,000 to do more work in this area,” he said. “They are going to do another application with more information and make sure our engineers have covered all the ground we need.”
In addition, Commissioner Nicole Boone said a citizen reached out with questions about the progress of the project.
“I am glad we are moving forward with these next steps and hopefully they will see progress for Barrows Mill,” she said.
Tyner also extended a “thank you” to the Town of Jackson.
“They are partnering with us with many things they are doing,” he said. “Without you, we would not be able to connect with a wastewater treatment system.”
In other water news, an approved addition to the agenda came by way of Jonathan Jones with the N.C. Department of Agriculture, Rural Development, who presented the board a letter of intent to sign, which was approved.
The presentation offer for the Phase 6 Water System Project is $4,992,000, plus the applicant’s contribution of $10,800. The loan will be approved on the date it is signed, Jones said. The repayment schedule is over 40 years.
Tyner said water has been on his agenda for five years and the program will pay for itself.
“Our water program aging, the equipment is aging — we need to do repairs to our old line,” he said. “Our water fee will increase, not because of the new water line, but because of the old water line. We have to make repairs to our pumps, wells and tanks.”
The board approved Phase 6 Water System Project request for obligation of funds, after the review by county attorney Scott McKellar.
“There is no question why I ran for the board, because people in my area, we do not have clean water,” Tyner said. “We want to make sure our citizens, especially in the east, you have been calling me asking, ‘When will we get water?’ It is on its way.”
The board also approved a new contract with financial adviser Davenport & Co. LLC of Richmond, Virginia, to work with the county in its financial transactions, providing advisory and consulting services, nontransaction related services and transaction related services.
For advisory and consulting services and nontransaction related services, two options exist for billing: hourly and annual retainer.
The hourly fee rate schedule is as follows:
Senior vice president, $300; first vice president, $275; vice president, $250; and analyst, $225. These fees can be incorporated in to the Transaction related fees, according to the contract.
The annual retainer fee is as follows:
For all advisory and nontransaction services, the financial adviser shall be compensated through an annual retainer of $30,000, payable in December. These fees can also be incorporated in the transaction related fees.
If the county elects to utilize the financial adviser’s transaction related services, the county and the financial adviser agree that the financial adviser shall be compensated based on an agreed upon completion fee at a minimum of $25,000 and a $75,000 maximum per transaction of either general obligation bonds or installment purchase obligations, unless otherwise agreed upon by Davenport and the county, according to the contract.
Some other expenses including reimbursement for fee and out-of-pocket expenses, such as mileage, meals and lodging incurred by Davenport will be billed to the county annually at cost. In addition, the county will pay 4% of the fee amount for indirect expenses, such as conference calls, printing, binding, postage and other incidentals, per the contract.
In employee news, two Halifax/Northampton county agents were introduced by Craig Ellison, county extension director, NC Cooperative Extension Service.
John Lyttle, the Horticulture Agent, will conduct horticulture educational programming in both counties. Brandon Pike, the Agricultural Agent, will conduct livestock educational programming in Northampton County, row crop educational programming in Halifax County and is responsible for Voluntary Agricultural Districts in both counties. Both of their positions are funded 35% through the state and 32.5% from each county, Ellison said.
The N.C. Farm App was also presented by Ellison, asking permission from the board, which was granted, to partner with Edgecombe, Halifax and Nash counties to perform certain technical and administrative services related to the implementation and continued support of the N.C. Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services Visit NC Farm APP program for one year. The contract is with the Upper Coastal Plan Council of Governments of Wilson.
“If you have a cell phone, you can download this APP and it will share with you when and if we get a farmers market, we can list the farmers market on there,” he said.
Some other options to feature on the APP are agritourism, local restaurants or local grocery stores, he said.
“If all four counties went in for 100 assets, the yearly cost to us is $420 for this contract,” Ellison said.
For some COVID-19 relief, the board approved qualified businesses to each receive a $465 grant from the county Micro Business COVID-19 Relief Funding Program. The following businesses were awarded the grant:
The Copy Center, Something Different Hair Care, Jerman’s Institution of Barbering & Cosmetic Arts, INAMP, The Treasure Chest, INspired by Love, Unique Hair Designs, Uppercutz Barber Shop, Ethelean Seafood, Flythe Brothers, Flythe Brothers Mini Storage, Odom Phillips 66 Station, The Embassy Cafe, Salamis, Sam’s Cleaners, J.S. Cocke’s Garage and Kutz & Kurlz Salon.
Tyner said, ”We are very thankful for what they do and for the amount of sales tax they pay the county — they give back to the county.”
Finally, one citizen, Keith Davis of Conway, spoke to the board. He said the Northampton County website reads: “Any member of the public who enters a county building is recommended to wear a face covering.”
“That is not a requirement; that is a recommendation — correct?” Davis asked. “So if I enter a county building without my face mask, will I be told to leave?”
Attorney McKellar advised before and during the citizen comment period, the commissioners do not comment, rather, Davis will receive a personal reply.
Davis said, “I read this and went in and was told not to come in until I wore a mask. I have no issue either way; I just want to know.”