Commissioners OK ‘shovel-ready’ water projects

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By Caroline Curran, Reporter

Brunswick County Commissioners are prepared for Congress to approve President Barack Obama’s federal stimulus plan.

At their Monday meeting, commissioners approved submitting two “shovel-ready” water projects, hoping to tap into some stimulus money.

Commissioners approved submitting the two “shovel-ready” water projects to the Public Water Supply Section of the N.C. Department of Environmental and Natural Resources.

DENR’s public water supply section provides loans and grants for local governments for water projects, Brunswick County Manager Marty Lawing explained.

“They already have a number of projects that people have submitted applications for. They fund as many as they can, then they wait for subsequent funding,” Lawing explained. “They’re trying to be proactive, which I think is good.”

But, Lawing says, DENR officials are operating under the assumption any stimulus money for water projects would be distributed through the state agency, not directly to local governments.

“They are making the assumption that, if there’s any federal money made available for municipal and county water projects, then it would be channeled through the state. It may not happen that way,” he said.

Lawing also said it wasn’t determined yet whether DENR funding would be grant funding or loans.

“The indication from public water supply is they think it’s going to be zero-percent interest loans,” Lawing said.

The commissioner-approved projects, which will be submitted to DENR are in the county’s capital improvement plan, Lawing said.

“We believe we have to shovel-ready projects—one of them already under design,” Brunswick County Public Utilities Director Jerry Pierce told commissioners.

The projects include a 750,000-gallon elevated water tank near Shallotte and improvements to the Northwest Water Treatment Plant. Improvements to the Northwest Water Treatment Plant total $8-9 million, Pierce said.

“I’m not sure if we have other projects far enough along to be considered to be shovel-ready. I know we have one that’s out for bid and another one that’s under design, but I’m not sure what its completion schedule is,” Pierce said when asked about other water and wastewater projects.

Pierce said the water tank construction project would create about 15-20 jobs for a nine-month period, including factory workers and a construction crew.

“I will say that there will be a lot of competition for these stimulus grants. Our best hope there is to have projects that are permitted and ready to go,” Pierce said.

Tax administrator

After a three-month vacancy, the Brunswick County Tax Department has a new director at the helm.

Tom Davis, who previously served as assistant tax administrator, was approved by commissioners, and sworn in as tax administrator Monday night.

Davis has been named acting director until he receives his tax administrator certificate through the state. Davis will serve the remainder of former tax administrator Tom Babgy’s unexpired term until June 2009. He will make an annual salary of $78,364.

Bagby resigned as tax administrator Oct. 10.

“I resigned at the request of the board,” Bagby said in an October interview with The Brunswick Beacon.

Other business

•Commissioners scheduled the board’s annual budget retreat for 8 a.m. March 17-19 at the county commissioners chambers in Bolivia.

•Commissioners appointed commissioners Marty Cooke and Scott Phillips to a special committee to examine a proposed take-home vehicle policy change for county employees.

•Commissioners appointed commissioners Cooke and Charles Warren to serve on a committee with members of the Brunswick County Hospital Authority to consider future uses of Brunswick Community Hospital once the new hospital facility is completed.

•Assistant county manager Steve Stone announced Stephanie Lewis, who had previously served as the county’s deputy operations services director, was named the new operations services director.