Old Fort Board of Alderman: Water and sewer study, potential traffic hazards discussed

The town’s water and sewer systems and forthcoming traffic hazards were discussed in Monday’s Board of Alderman meeting


A recent asset study of Old Fort’s water and sewer systems and potential traffic hazards in construction and street paving were discussed in Monday’s Board of Alderman meeting.

During last October and November, Municipal Engineering Services of Boone performed an asset study of the town’s water and sewer systems and reported the results to the board prior to Monday’s meeting. Although Municipal Engineering was not present during the meeting, the board nonetheless provided hard copy reports for the aldermen and those in attendance to look over.

“We want to thank Municipal Engineering for the very thorough job they’ve done,” said Old Fort Mayor Rick Hensley. “Through the grants and everything we’ve got, we were able to pay for this. It didn’t cost the taxpayers a dime. Our maintenance department, as well as our water department, needed this desperately because of lot of stuff that we had was just in the way.”

According to the water system assessment performed in October, the report indicated four leaks on water line segments – two on West Orchard Street and one each at West Main Street and Commerce Street – as well as assessed the conditions of the town’s 27 pump control systems, rated from “excellent” to “poor.” Of those 27 systems: three rated “excellent”; 14 rated “Good;” two rated “Fair;” and eight rated “poor.”

In an assessment of the town’s Capital Improvement Plan (CIP), the Town of Old Fort Utilities Department estimates that it will spend a total of $0.8 million on water projects over the next 10 years so that it can continue to maintain compliance with state and federal effluent limits and provide proper service to water customers. As Old Fort has no current debt service for the water system, it is assumed that capital projects now being implemented will be funded by the Capital Reserve and/or potential State and Federal Grant programs.

Based on projected McDowell County population growth, water supply needs in Old Fort are projected to increase to an approximate 326,200 gallons per day (gpd) average by 2037, compared to 2017’s average water usage of 313,700 gpd.

In the sewer/wastewater study, performed in November, based on McDowell’s projected population growth, wastewater flow in Old Fort is projected to increase to an approximate170,700 gpd average by 2037, way below the town’s Wastewater Treatment Plant’s permitted capacity. According to the assessment report, total recommended sewer system expenditures over the next ten years total $471,500.

The board made a motion to approve the asset study.

Among one of the other topics discussed in the meeting was potential traffic hazards due to latest construction for Old Fort Elementary as well as street paving on Main Street.

According to Alderman Melvin Lytle Jr., the elementary school will be bringing 2,000 loads of dirt from Old U.S. 70 and travel to Orchard and Commerce Street, meaning a high volume of dump trucks between both streets.

Additionally, Lytle said, DOT will soon begin paving on Main Street from Cane Creek Road to Orchard Street occurring simultaneously with construction on the elementary school, resulting in further traffic complications.

“This is going to be a headache and a half,” said Lytle.

“We want everyone to know there’s going to be a lot of traffic,” said Hensley. “There’s going to be a lot of traffic jams, so please slow down.”

An exact time frame for how long street paving will take has not been confirmed.

In other business:

• During public comments, Kirstie Conner of the Old Fort Community Forum invited the board and others in attendance to this month’s forum meeting, scheduled for Feb. 21 at 5:30. Conner also said that the forum can allot time at the beginning of the meeting for the aldermen to provide updates or other vital information.

• Also during public comments, Steven Wiscombe of Catawba Solar introduced himself and his recently started solar installation company to the aldermen. “We’re the first dedicated solar company on this side of the mountain,” said Wiscombe, “and as with a lot of things on this side of the mountain, that means it’s a little cheaper, so that’s what we’re shooting for, to capitalize on taxes are less here, cost of living is less here, and pass on those savings onto people who’ve looked at solar but feel it’s been a little cost-prohibited in the past.”

• Under old business, Hensley discussed low-hanging and fallen trees near Church Street that were seen as public safety hazards. Hensley said town maintenance handled the issue last week and that the property owner will be billed.

• According to the mayor, at least one of the three businesses not compliant with the town’s water backflow ordinance decided to comply.

• In regards to the walking bridges damaged by Tropical Storm Alberto, Hensley said the board will be meeting with McDowell Soil and Water Conservation to manage pending repairs.

• The board unanimously agreed to keep the same officers for the town’s budget committee.

• Under new business, the board discussed a business interested in utilizing part of the remodeled Rocket Building. According to Alderman Andrew Carlton, as lease negotiations are underway for the unnamed business, the event section of the building is still unavailable for rent.

• Carlton announced that he has launched a new Facebook page “Old Fort Mayor Pro-Tem” as a means of providing town updates and to allow questions or concerns from the public. Carlton urged those commenting on the page to be “civil, respectful and clean” in discussion.

• Carlton addressed the board with a recent meeting with B&K Carnival about tentative dates to come to Old Fort in August, with specific dates to be determined this week. “Once we get those dates, I would love to start a carnival committee, cause there are several things we can do to promote this,” said Carlton.

• Hensley said that in the next Alderman meeting, the board will provide updates on eventual plans for Fourth of July.

The next Old Fort Board of Alderman meeting is scheduled for March 11 at 5:30 p.m. at Town Hall.

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