Local Government Commission approves $750K in grants for North Carolina utilities

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The North Carolina Local Government Commission has approved utility grants for three communities that need a total reform of their public water or wastewater system.

The commission, which oversees local government finances, approved a total of $750,000 in grants for the towns of Bethel and Kingstown and the Cliffside Sanitary District.

The grants, provided by the State Water Infrastructure Authority (SWIA), were passed through House Bill 1087, which was signed by Gov. Roy Cooper in July.

About $9 million is available to help communities that have been identified as distressed based on their ability to continue to operate and fund their water or wastewater systems, officials said.

The local governments are allowed to use the grants to explore fixes or study other possible long-term solutions.

Bethel, located in Pitt County, received a $100,000 grant and plans to merge with the Greenville Utilities Commission.

Cliffside, located in Rutherford County, is exploring ways to resolve its issues, including decommissioning the plant and connecting to Boiling Springs or Forest City or expanding the user base to raise revenues, the state treasurer’s office said. The sanitary district was awarded a $400,000 grant.

Kingstown, located in Cleveland County, received a $250,000 grant. The county’s water authority has offered to take ownership of town’s sewer collection service, officials said.

The LGC is chaired by State Treasurer Dale Folwell, and its eight other members include Secretary of State Elaine Marshall, Secretary of Revenue Ronald Penny, State Auditor Beth Wood, Concord Mayor Scott Padgett, retired Gastonia City Manager Edward Munn and former Shelby Mayor Mike Philbeck.

The LGC also approved Tuesday a draft list of 117 local government units that have been identified as distressed and could later qualify for a utility grant. The SWIA also must approve the list and is scheduled to vote next week.

Once the local utility systems have been designated as distressed, it allows the LGC to step in and review, restructure and provide financial assistance to cities struggling to maintain the utility. Officials who oversee the system’s finances must participate in training and educational programs, develop short-term and long-term action plans and conduct an assessment and rate study.

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