Commissioners approve application for grant for acquisition study of Norwood water system

The county water and sewer systems in Stanly service many customers, and the county may eventually include Norwood as a customer.

At a recent meeting of the Stanly County Board of Commissioners, the board unanimously approved a resolution allowing the county’s utilities department to apply for a grant from the North Carolina Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) for money for a merger and acquisition study.

“We are in discussions with some members of the town council and three members of the Stanly County Board of Commissioners,” Utilities Manager Duane Wingo said.

He said it’s not a “done deal” between the county and Norwood for Stanly to acquire the system.

“It just means we’re going to look at it, then have discussions whether or not it might be in both our best interests to do so,” Wingo said.

The study would examine Norwood’s current water and sewer infrastructure, including the Norwood treatment plant, Wingo said. The study would produce a financial forecast of the town’s system, including looking at the town’s current debt service.

Wingo said the county would then have Chambers Engineering “look at the condition of the existing system, an inventory and what capital improvements are needed.”

The county utility director said he had a concern about the Norwood system having a lot of “older cast-iron pipe” which “a lot of that pipe is at the end of its useful life, meaning we’re probably going to look at the cost of replacing the pipe.” He said any replacements would probably take five to 10 years.

Wingo said Norwood wants certain rate guarantees, while the county is looking at the situation saying, “It depends on how bad your system is and what we’ve got to fix over there.”

The water system is an enterprise fund, Wingo said, meaning it is revenue neutral.

“At the end of the day, we have to make the system pay for itself,” Wingo said.

During the meeting, Commissioner Scott Efird asked if it was a matching grant, which Wingo said would be matched 100 percent.

“We definitely think Norwood would be 100 percent,” Wingo said in terms of a matching grant.

Chairman Tommy Jordan said the board could reject the grant and study if it is not in the county’s favor.