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County receives $2.96 million to help with Dukeville water line

By Josh Bergeron

josh.bergeron@salisburypost.com

SALISBURY — State regulators on Thursday announced $2.96 million in funding for a water line in the Dukeville area.

The money will be used to help build a county-owned water line from a Salisbury-Rowan Utilities line near Interstate 85. The county’s line will extend to economic development sites and residents within a half mile of Buck Steam Station’s coal ash ponds. The state Water Infrastructure Authority will provide Rowan County the money in the form of a loan from the Drinking Water State Reserve, according to a news release.

Grant writer Kellie Cartwright said the county received “every penny” it asked for in an application submitted last year.

Asked about the announcement Thursday, County Commissioner Craig Pierce said he wanted to see the state’s letter before commenting extensively.

“If it goes through, I’m glad we got it because it’s going to help us with our water and sewer project,” Pierce said.

County Manager Aaron Church said the $2.96 million in state funding could make up for a financial discrepancy that’s likely to exist between what state law requires and county commissioners want.

State law requires Duke Energy to extend a water line or provide another permanent source of safe water to residents living within a half-mile of Buck Steam Station. Lawmakers passed the state law last year out of concern about unsafe water quality caused by nearby coal ash ponds. After receiving a petition from local residents, the Rowan County Board of Commissioners planned to extend water lines to houses near Buck Steam Station but also hoped to provide service to economic development sites in the Dukeville area.

Duke Energy has told county officials the company would reimburse costs for a 6-inch water line if 75 percent of eligible residents sign up for service, according to Church. The county prefers a water line that’s 12 inches at its largest point.

Asked recently about the discrepancy, a Duke Energy representative would not say whether the company would pay for only a 6-inch line and leave remaining costs to Rowan County.

Church said he will need to talk with state officials to provide a full picture of the current finances for the Dukeville water line. When Rowan County first applied for state money, Duke Energy had not completed its plans to provide drinking water to neighbors of its coal ash ponds.

“We’ll just need to get the award letter and have a meeting with the state to let them know what the commissioners and everyone else already knows,” Church said.

Because it’s a loan, the county will have to pay back the $2.96 million it receives.

State officials on Thursday announced a total of $300 million in loans and grants. It was the largest-ever round of funding from the Water Infrastructure Authority, a news release said. Part of the money will come from the Connect N.C. Bond that was passed by voters last year.

“These projects produce vital, multifaceted results for our state,” said Department of Environmental Quality Secretary Michael S. Regan in a news release. “Water quality improvement, public health protection and increased economic growth are not fully possible without reliable water infrastructure. Today and tomorrow, this funding will improve the daily lives of North Carolinians.”

Church said it’s important to thank state lawmakers who represent Rowan County for adding letters of support to Rowan County’s application. He said the county commissioners also deserve praise for creating a grant writer position in 2015. Without Cartwright, the county’s first and only grant writer, the county would not have been able to apply for funding such as the $2.96 million loan, he said.

Contact reporter Josh Bergeron at 704-797-4246.

 

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