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Carroll to fund Exit 19 water start-up

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By Christopher Brooke, Reporter

HILLSVILLE — Three of Carroll's governing entities made a pact Dec. 17 to cover costs for Rural Development loans to get water and sewer to Exit 19.

This is part of a continuing effort to prepare the Interstate 77 exit, also being referred to as "Wildwood," for intended commercial and industrial development.

Five elected officials on the Carroll Board of Supervisors simultaneously met as both county board representatives and as Public Service Authority members, and they were joined by four members of the Industrial Development Authority.

"This is certainly a time that we look forward to, and we're very excited about what we're about to do today," said Supervisors' Chairman Sam Dickson.

Assistant Administrator Ronald Newman explained that the Public Service Authority (which organizes and operates public water and sewer projects in the county) has applied for federal Rural Development loans for getting sewer to Exit 19 and a distribution system to Carroll County for the regional water plant being built near Austinville.

The revenue stream for those projects at the beginning is not enough to be self-sufficient, Newman said. In other words, the fees coming in would not cover the loan repayments to Rural Development.

So, there's an idea for the Carroll IDA to pay an "availability fee" in connection with these projects.

"Because these projects will certainly open up, especially Exit 19, for development, and that's what the IDA works for," Newman said.

He presented two draft agreements for approval in concept for the Public Service Authority to reserve capacity for the IDA for a monthly fee.

The documents put those capacities at 75,000 gallons each of both water and wastewater treatment per day.

The paperwork also named dollar amounts for the availability fees — $39,300 for water and $8,700 for sewer based on an engineer's estimate for the projects — but Newman stressed those may change, depending on actual bid amounts for construction.

Rural Development now requires localities to be able to show a revenue stream, he said. The agreement will serve as "collateral" for that revenue stream to get the project going.

These payments would begin on March 1, 2012, and continue for 40 years.

It goes on to say that development of the properties would cover the costs.

"Upon development of the property or properties served by the water system, revenue generated from the sale of water to such property or properties shall offset the reserve capacity payment due on a dollar for dollar basis," one document says.

And the paperwork dealing with sewer has a similar clause for wastewater treatment payments.

Newman asked each governing body to approve the agreements in concept as two representatives from Rural Development — Robert Hilt and Cyndy Bedwell — watched.

PSA member Andy Jackson made such a motion, and it was approved by the five authority members present unanimously.

IDA member Barry Hicks made the motion for the group that works on economic development projects. All four members present voted yes, so it was approved, too.

Finally, the supervisors unanimously approved the concept after a motion by Supervisor Manus McMillian.

This will help with the county's application for Rural Development funding, Newman told The Gazette after the meeting. "What it means is we can go on with the process."

If the federal agency is not able to fund the two projects at this time, Newman is also asking for authority to seek interim financing.

The interim funds would be replaced with permanent funding from Rural Development if it becomes available, he said.

Carroll County officials are "working diligently" to get these projects underway, Newman said.