Siler City commits to fixing water pressure deficiencies, supporting nonprofits

BY D. LARS DOLDER, News + Record Staff
Posted 8/17/21

SILER CITY — The town’s board of commissioners debated solutions to longstanding water pressure deficiencies in parts of town and discussed potential spending options for federally …

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Siler City commits to fixing water pressure deficiencies, supporting nonprofits

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Posted

SILER CITY — The town’s board of commissioners debated solutions to longstanding water pressure deficiencies in parts of town and discussed potential spending options for federally granted monies in its regular meeting Monday.

For years, some homeowners in Siler City have endured underwhelming water pressure on their properties. In extreme cases, the issue has rendered even basic, day-to-day tasks — such as washing dishes and showering — difficult to accomplish.

“This has been an ongoing problem for many years,” Town Manager Roy Lynch said, “and over the last year, it’s become increasingly worse.”

Particularly in the Homewood Acres neighborhood, town staff and contractors have identified acutely weak water pressure, according to Lynch. 

“We’ve had a lot of concerned customers in the area,” he said, “which led us to have the engineers go out and monitor certain homes in the area to get readings and establish what the actual need is.”   

The problem, according to David Honeycutt — an engineer with McGill Engineers, which the town contracted to assess its water pressure problems — is the neighborhood’s proximity in elevation to the water tank that serves it. Siler City has two water pressure zones. Most of town draws water from elevated storage tanks off Siler Business Drive. But a smaller zone, which includes Homewood Acres, is served by a standpipe near the end of Tanglewood Drive. The standpipe is filled using a booster pump system on Dogwood Avenue. 

“Water pressure is primarily driven by the difference in elevation between water level in the tanks and the customers being served,” town staff reported in documentation presented to the board Monday. “The area close to the standpipe at Tanglewood Drive has low water pressure as the homes are located close in elevation to the tank.”

To address the problem, Lynch and his staff recommended construction of a drinking water distribution system, which would include a booster pump station and pressure tank to serve domestic demands. The estimated cost would be about $826,000, which Lynch hopes state funds might cover.

“We are asking the board to consider a resolution,” he said, “to apply for a State Drinking Water State Revolving Fund combination loan/grant to improve the water pressure situation.”

If the project proceeds according to town staff’s recommendation, 67 homes in the Tanglewood area would see improved water pressure.

The commissioners were quick to support water pressure improvement measures, but questioned whether a more substantial project might be necessary. The town’s investigation included mostly hypothetical analyses based on home elevations as compared to the water tank. The engineers directly consulted with only three property owners.

“It just seems to me we ought to talk to more residents to make sure we’ve got the right area,” Commissioner Lewis Fadely said, “especially since we’re going to be putting out close to a million dollars to fix the problem.”

Mayor Pro Tem Cindy Bray suggested the town should broaden the solution’s scope.

“I can attest to the fact that it’s not just that area,” she said. “Where I live, you cannot run the dishwasher and take a shower at the same time.”

Still, the board approved Lynch’s requested resolution, but with the understanding that his staff will continue investigating additional water pressure solutions to resolve issues across a larger area.

“We want to keep our possibilities open,” Honeycutt said. “We can certainly consider going back to additional water structure again and there may be some other programs available as well.”

American Rescue Fund

Siler City has received its first installment of federal funds per the American Rescue Plan.

For months, Siler City and municipalities across the nation have awaited distribution of funds as part of the ARP  — the $1.9 trillion COVID-19 stimulus bill President Joe Biden signed in March.

Besides individual stimulus payments and the extension of certain unemployment benefits, ARP includes $350 billion in emergency funding for state, local, territorial and Tribal governments. Siler City is poised to receive $2.41 million total, $1.3 million of which already “has hit our bank account,” Lynch said.

In May, the town made a calculated decision to omit nonprofit funding from its budget for fiscal year 2022 with the expectation that ARP funds could be used later to support such organizations. On Monday, Lynch reaffirmed his suggestion that the board distribute some of Siler City’s ARP money to nonprofits around town.

“There were certain categories that these funds could fit into,” he said, “appropriations that could be made for these funds. One of them is the nonprofit funding as we had talked about during the budget process that potentially we could use these if they were not available during the normal budget process.”

The ARP program comes with spending restrictions, however, which render some organizations ineligible to receive funds. 

“We had categories we had to fit each one of these requests into,” Town Finance Director Tina Stroupe said of the nonprofit organizations. “And so what we looked at was the public health and economic impact category and also the infrastructure investment category. According to the guidance, we only had so many categories and we had to get those items in there because we will have to annually report what we spent of the ARP funds and how we fit into the categories.” 

Stroupe suggested the town begin its ARP fund allocation with 12 nonprofits, each of which match the federal government-mandated categories. They include the Boys & Girls Clubs of Central Carolina, Chatham Cares Community Pharmacy, Chatham County Communities In School, Chatham County Council on Aging, Chatham County Housing Initiatives, Chatham Literacy, Chatham Trades, the Hispanic Liaison, the N.C. Arts Incubator, the Salvation Army, the Siler City Development Organization and the Western Chatham Food Bank.

The board unanimously voted to approve the spending plan. Each nonprofit will receive 53% of the money it requested during Siler City’s regular budget season. In total, the town will allocate an initial $87,718 for nonprofits.

Another $320,000 is reserved for infrastructure development expenses and town departments. The remaining balance will be allocated at a future time.

Other news

• The board approved a demolition ordinance for the house at 704 W. Third St. 

Reporter D. Lars Dolder can be reached at dldolder@chathamnr.com and on Twitter @dldolder.

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