Calabash mayor hopeful federal ‘back-to-work’ will aid sewer

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By Laura Lewis, Reporter

As sewer talks continue with Brunswick County, Mayor Anthony Clemmons is optimistic President-Elect Barack Obama will implement a back-to-work plan that will help the delayed project in Calabash.

“As you know, we’re in a holding pattern at this time,” Clemmons said last week. “During that time, we are actively seeking means of funding that would reduce the total assessment.”

Clemmons said information about a proposed federal back-to-work program could be just the ticket to help offset costs for the estimated $7 million project.

“The program will be looking at the projects that are shovel-ready—that means you’ve got your permits, engineering plans, and you’re ready to start digging,” Clemmons said. “We hope by the time the new administration gets in to be shovel-ready and we’ll be at the top of the list.”

Clemmons also hopes to know soon about the status of grants that have been applied for to aid the project.

Last month, Calabash commissioners put the project on hold for not less than six months so the town can explore financial options.

The action was in response to petitions recently presented by residents in Calabash Acres and Pine Bur Acres asking the town to exclude the two subdivisions from the proposed sewer system until homeowners are allowed to vote on the matter.

The town has applied for the State and Tribal Grant (STAG) Program and the county and town have applied for a USDA grant, Clemmons said.

“We’re at full speed on lowering the assessment as we were from day one,” Clemmons said. “If we get the grant money, then we’ll really be smiling.”

In addition, he said Obama is committed to launching an economic-stimulus back-to-work program and wants to put people back to work immediately following his inauguration in January.

“His aides have indicated they are going to be looking at infrastructure projects, water, sewer, things like that,” Clemmons said. “We certainly will welcome that in our town.”

Clemmons and town commissioner John Melahn met last week with Brunswick County Manager Marty Lawing, county utilities director Jerry Pierce, and project manager Eric Williams with HDR Engineering.

“I think it’s mainly trying to keep open lines of communication at this point,” Lawing said. “I think we’re making progress.”

Lawing said design of Calabash’s sewer project is close to being finished and the county will be ready to submit for permits.

He added it would be good if economic-stimulus money were made available after the first of the year, during the first quarter of 2009.

“The main concern with the people in Calabash is the potential cost of the project,” Lawing said.

The total cost won’t be known until the project is complete, he said.

The projected $7 million cost is “based on the best estimate engineers can put together right now,” he said.

A lot of municipalities are trying to get extra funding, he said.

“You increase your chances if you have a grant that’s ready to go,” Lawing said. “We hope we could get some money for that project as well as other projects nearly ready to go.”

As soon as guidelines are established and a stimulus plan approved, “we’ll be eligible to compete for funds,” Lawing said.

He said that would also include the Sunset Beach sewer project.