Board set to meet Thursday to discuss water and wastewater utilities in Unit Vitality program with the state

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PITTSBORO — Town commissioners on Monday decided to hold a special session Thursday, June 30, to discuss a response to a N.C. Dept. of Environmental Quality letter regarding Pittsboro qualifying for the state’s Viable Utility Program.

The meeting will be held via Zoom at 4 p.m.

The Viable Utility program was established in July 2020 to help address “distressed communities” and their water and wastewater needs. A distressed community is defined as one with “growing economic challenges for rural parts of the state and the struggle to maintain viable water systems.”

According to DEQ, as a “distresssed” communitty, Pittsboro’s water and wastewater problems — which include a shortage in capacity — could qualify the town for millions of dollars of funding toward interconnecting and extending public water or wastewater infrastructure. The infrastructure would provide regional services, rehabilitating existing public water or wastewater infrastructure by decentralizing an existing public water system or wastewater system into smaller viable parts.

The town received the letter from the state on June 21; the board has until July 1 to respond to the letter. Town Manager Chris Kennedy told commissioners he’d provide additional information at Thursday’s session in order to help facilitate a decision by the board.

In other business:

• Commissioners unanimously approved the town’s continued support of Summer Fest, an annual celebration held on the downtown streets. This year’s event takes place Sunday. It’s sponsored by the Pittsboro Business Association.

Town Manager Chris Kennedy said overtime pay for police officers and other municipal employees, and the use of town utilities and equipment such as water hoses, Pittsboro’s financial commitment to the event will likely be $3,000 to $5,000. The money will be transferred from a budget item that covers miscellaneous expenses.

• Commissioners heard an update on the status of the Pittsboro Wastewater Improvement Project from Charles Davis, director of marketing and business development for The Wooten Group, designers of the project.

Davis said he realized commissioners have grown frustrated by the lack of progress on the project, about three years in the works. He said the skyrocketing price of materials is partly to blame for cost overruns. When the project, which will link the wastewater system of Pittsboro with Sanford’s, was conceived, it was expected to cost about $19 million. The cost has now risen to about $30 million, Davis said. Kennedy said an example of the price increases the town has experienced on the project is the cost of piping. He said when the work was first conceived, piping was expected to cost about $70 a foot, including installation. Now, the cost of the pipe alone has soared to $98 per foot, installation not included.

• Commissioners approved a special use permit for a cemetery on 11.6 acres of land at 1365 N.C. Hwy. 902. The applicant and landowner is Iglesia Bautista Misionera Roca Fuerte Inc.

Reporter Taylor Heeden and News + Record correspondent Steve Huffman contributed to this report.

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